Documenters for the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force meetings

This month I conceived, led, and participated in the documentation of the four community forums hosted by the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force.
The work, centered at Smart Chicago, is a part of the Documenters program. Here’s a snip from a blog post I wrote, kicking off this particular work with the CPATF:

We care about justice and we care about accountability, so we have sent text documenters, videographers (Community TV Network), and a photographer (me) to these convenings under our Documenters program, which “an essential tool for us to add new thinkers, generate ideas, and expand the field for civic tech.”

We show up at public meetings and document the proceedings because we’re interested in paying as much attention as we can to what others are saying, what their concerns are, and how they interact with official government structures. These community forums give us a great opportunity for this. We have a number of goals for this series:

  • Document the actual proceedings, with special attention, in this instance, to the speakers from the public— exactly what questions were asked, what documents were referenced, and what answers were offered by the task force
  • Research the questions and answers to the greatest degree possible. This includes learning more about the speakers, many of whom have decades of experience in their communities. Research and link to their organizations, their work, and the external documents, cases, and other matters that they reference
  • Aggregate the information and draw some rudimentary conclusions. This means simple things like counting attendees and speakers as well as some more sophisticated analysis like grouping comment types and themes.

My role was to manage the project— hire the videographers, writers, and photographers. I also attended most of the meetings and did all of the photo documentation for meetings 1, 2, and 3.

Knight News Challenge Open Gov Round

I served as a Reader for the Knight News Challenge Open Gov Round. It was a great experience that helped me sharpen the focus of my work in the civic innovation sector of the technology industry.

Some of my writing was reffed in the preview blog post:

News Challenge on open gov launches Feb. 12

One of our goals for the News Challenge is to involve more people in the use of technology to solve community problems. “Dozens of developers looking at each other in conference rooms over pizza is never going to lead to making lives better… without the active involvement of real residents expressing real needs and advocating for software that makes sense to them,” wrote Daniel O’Neil of the Smart Chicago Collaborative recently. We hope to help extend the spirit of open gov beyond those conference rooms, and to catalyze partnerships between hackers, civic innovators, governments, journalists and others. As a social investor, we feel the time is right to help advance the field.

Here’s a pic from Round 2 judging:

In Miami for Round 2 Judging of News Challenge for Open Gov

The winners are all deeply deserving. Here’s a snip from the announcement blog post,  Announcing the winners of Knight News Challenge: Open Gov

The News Challenge wouldn’t be possible without the involvement of many people outside Knight Foundation. I want to thank all who contributed ideas and comments to the site especially the eight people (Chase Davis, Hannah EavesElise HuErin Kissane,Jessica LordDaniel O’NeilDan Schultz and Kio Stark) who served as readers and helped us curate conversations on the site, the 18 who came to Miami on April 15-16 to help us review the final 40 entries, and to Seamus KraftDaniel O’NeilAron Pilhofer, Laura RamosJuliana RotichPeter Spear and Tom Steinberg for taking the time to participate with us in final round interviews.

Panel: FOIA Fest!

Today I participated in a panel discussion for the Chicago Headline Club, described by Fernandio Diaz as follows:

Citizen Advocacy Center’s Terry Pastika, the Northwestern University Knight Lab’s Joe Germuska and Smart Chicago Collaborative’s Dan O’Neil will discuss efforts to influence policy and legislation and how technology can improve access to public records.

FOIA Fest Shot, Arms Crossed

Here’s coverage of the event by Angela Ford at Chicago Talks: #FOIAFEST : Columbia College

 

 

Radio: Discussion on WBEZ’s Morning Shift re: Data Journalism and the Civic Innovation in Chicago Project

This morning I participated in a discussion about the launch of Smart Chicago Collaborative’s Civic Innovation in Chicago project on WBEZ:

Bonus: Dolly Varden!

I also wrote a companion blog post talking about the importance of including as many Chicago residents as possible in civic innovation.

Click here for sound file if embed link is broken.

Excerpts from Data Journalism Conversation on WBEZ Morning Shift With Tony Sarabia, January 16, 2013 from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

Additional bonus: video!

Del Mar 1976 by Dolly Varden in Studio at WBEZ Morning Shift With Tony Sarabia, January 16, 2013 from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

Aspen FOCAS 2012: Toward Open and Innovative Governance

Over the last few days, I participated in FOCAS 2012: Toward Open and Innovative Governance at the Aspen Institute. It was an enlightening and invigorating experience. Here’s some media that came out of the conference:

I took a goodly number of nature shots:

Aspen in August

And some videos of my contributions:

Daniel X. O’Neil Remarks at Aspen Institute 2012 Forum on Communications and Society: Towards Open and Innovative Governance from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

Aspen FOCAS Conference DXO Closing Thoughts from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

Aspen FOCAS Conference: DXO Discussion of Group A Proposal re: Infrastructure from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

As well as some art I made based on my experience there:

DXO Madeline Aspen Musical from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

Here’s a group shot:

FOCAS12 Group Photo

Update: here’s a book published out of this conference: Road to Government 2.0: Technological Problems and Solutions for Transparency, Efficiency and Participation

PANEL: Turning Data into Narrative at “The Story & The Algorithm: 2012 MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference”

Today I participated in an interesting panel at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference. Here’s my bit:

PANEL: Turning Data Into Narrative from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

Here’s relevant snips from the conference live blog:

Dan O’Neil is the Executive Director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, which funds and fosters civic and municipal innovation.

Next is Dan O’Neil of Smart Chicago, an organisation which aims to improve lives in Chicago through technology. He helped start EveryBlock. He shares tips on using data.

Up first are strategies for finding data: He emphasizes using search. Search is your friend, he says. “ I prefer it to asking”. He was responsible for data acquisition for Everyblock. Dan reemphasizes the importance of searching for data on your own. “Asking people for data never got me anywhere,” he says. He gives the example of Dallas crime report, which has several years of data on its website, but you need to look for it. If you look hard enough, it has the best crime data. And it has narrative. After all, cops record everything that happens. Data has more structure than what you would imagine, he says.

Dan created data using text to see why sources were granted anonymity. This is an idea he has been working on since 2005, after the Jayson Blair episode at New York Times. Dan shows a slide that shows a list of reasons for allowing anonymity. He also points us to the Data Journalism Handbook — lot of people helped create it here. On a lighter note, he says it is highly focused on asking for data.

Dan makes the point of how context is important in data. Publishing data without context is not super-useful. Why is most data is boring? Dan says it’s because data is made by people, and most people are boring most of the time. Hence the need for a new model of presenting data: ” I use data to tell stories.” He tells us the story of his incredibly detailed post on a Walgreens in Milwaukee, including information from 10 different data sources.

He gives details of how he developed the story and how he got the data. You have to get as much data as you can, he says. For instance, in this case, he even got building permits from the city of Chicago. There could be many interesting details in this data. Building permits is boring data but there could be exciting details embedded in it. He found a building closed for 20 years and open for three days.

He talked about other resources. Sanborn maps are amazing resources on land use and building use. Original photography is data. He looked in New York Times archive found materials there. He looked for the word JImmied in advanced search and found it was useful data . Police had used it several times. This could be used for further search.

Dan argues that we need to start embedding data in stories. We also need to take personal responsibility for our own data. In the crime records, people call the police and lie. Crime data full of amazing lies. Abstraction of data that is not useful.

He gave an example of relationship between human beings and data. If you are looking for how many planes are struck by birds? The data available is terrible. Reporters wrote about this and then data on these details was released and it was found the San Francisco International Airport was terrible because they had good data.

Other resources:

HackDay: Condition of Anonymity Project

Today I participated in the Mozilla OpenNews Story and the Algorithm Hack Day. I met some great people and made real progress on a project I’ve had for a long time: Condition of Anonymity. Basically, this is a fun way to explore the reasons the New York Times has given for granting anonymity to a source (“because clauses”). Here are the details of the hack day progress, including the people who did the work. Take a look at the prototype here. Click any word to see because clauses containing that word.  Here’s a pretty comprehensive document on the project, including a list of other clauses to consider in an algorithm.

Here’s a shot of the site as it stood at the end of the hack:

Making the "Condition of" Protoype

PHOTOS: Dan Sinker is @MayorEmanuel

Here’s some photos I took today that got some wide pickup nationally, including an exclusive article in The Atlantic. Here’s a snip from my personal blog, Derivative Works:

Dan Sinker is @MayorEmanuel. Never let it be said that Daniel X. O’Neil cannot keep a secret. This morning I went to Sinker’s house to take some pics for him. One ended up in The Atlantic piece:Dan Sinker is @MayorEmanuelBut I like this Seesmic money shot better:Dan Sinker is @MayorEmanuel (With Seesmic for Android)

I really love these pics.UPDATE: Here’s some media outlets that used my pics:

LAUNCH: AldermanicWebsites.com

Today I launched a politics/ design/ technology/ humor site called AldermanicWebsites.Here’s the launch post (Comparing Aldermanic Hopefuls Online) and two snippets:

Here’s something I worked on over Christmas vacation: AldermanicWebsites. It is a fun/ manic little Web site that “contains links to and reviews of the Web sites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and other Web referencia for each of the 349 people who filed nominating petitions to run for Alderman in one of the cities wards.”*I like the Analysis best– so far I’ve got five posts there, covering everything from good stars and bad stars to remarkable sites and popular Web development platforms. And you’ve realy got to view source to see anything.

Here’s the About page with a snip about the technology reviews:

Chicago Board of Election Commissioners LogoIf you’re interested examples in particular technologies used by particular candidates, the Quick-See pulldown menu is your best bet.For instance, you can see all candidates using the WordPress Web development platform, all candidates using PayPal to collect contributions, or everyone who uses Contact Contact to send out mass emails.Same goes for wards– just choose the ward your interested in (the 24th is super-lively) and you’ll see all candidates. The Ward list is in alphabetical order (when the ward number is spelled out). That’s a little goofy, I know– what can I say; I have limited skills.

Here’s some coverage:Gapers Block: Comparing Aldermanic Hopefuls Online

There are 349 candidates for alderman in this election, with varying levels of web savvy. AldermanicWebsites helps sort through them all. Unsurprisingly, a certain star makes a lot of appearances.

Progress Illinois: Council Candidates On The Web, Facebook, Twitter, And More

AldermanicWebsites.com is a new hub tracking the web-based battle for Chicago’s City Council. Courtesy of internet developer and writer Dan X. O’Neil, the site offers an easy way to comb through the online output of hundreds of candidates who submitted nominating petitions to run for one of Chicago’s 50 council seats. You’ll find links to the candidates’ websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and what O’Neill calls “other Web referencia.” There are reviews and discussions of their digital production too — check out O’Neil’s thoughts on the star imagery on the prospective council member pages — and a link to a set of photographs of the front page of each aldermanic candidate’s site. Browsing through those front pages is a useful way to learn how council candidates are defining the issues their communities face, where they think incumbent council members have fallen short, and why voters should trust them to do a better job.