Panel Discussion:”Daily Urbanism”at Open Cities conference

Today I participated in a panel for the Open Cities conference in Washington, DC. The topic was “Daily Urbanism”. Here’s the description from the program:

A good infographic is worth a thousand words. Data visualization can help bridge the gap between government projects and citizen engagement. Panelists will discuss opportunities to use data to better understand cities and guide regional policies.

Here’s some of the points we covered:

  • It may seem like automatic data, but there are millions of humans behind it
  • People reporting potholes, cops coming to the aid of citizens, building inspectors crawling through job sites
  • Represents immense human labor and many citizen interactions
  • Getting represented here is as important as being represented in the voting booth

Columbia Journalism Review:”A See-Through Society”

Here’s a great article by Micah Sifry that has a pretty long take on Chicago Works For You:Columbia Journalism Review: A See-Through

People are eager for access to information, and public officials who try to stand in the way will discover that the Internet responds to information suppression by routing around the problem. Consider the story of a site you’ve never seen, In June 2005, a team of Web developers working for the city of Chicago began developing a site that would take the fifty-five different kinds of service requests that flow into the city’s 311 database—items like pothole repairs, tree-trimming, garbage-can placement, building permits, and restaurant inspections—and enable users to search by address and “map what’s happening in your neighborhood.” The idea was to showcase city services at the local level.

ChicagoWorks was finished in January 2006, with the support of Mayor Richard Daley’s office. But it also needed to be reviewed by the city’s aldermen and, according to a source who worked on the project, “they were very impressed with its functionality, but they were shocked at the possibility that it would go public.” Elections were coming up, and even if the site showed 90 percent of potholes being filled within thirty days, the powers-that-be didn’t want the public to know about the last 10 percent. was shelved.

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

PANEL: Citizen Self-Help: Finding the Infromation You Need

Today I participated in a panel discussion at the National Press Club for Sunshine Week 2008.

Citizen Self-Help: Finding the Information You Need

We will be visiting and talking with creators of websites that help the public avoid having to file official requests or go to offices and meetings to learn what our government is doing: Sheila Krumholz ( Center for Responsive Politics/, David Moore (, Sean Moulton (, and Daniel X. O’Neil (EveryBlock); Greg Elin of Sunlight Labs will moderate. These sites make hard-to-find government information — federal, state and local — easy for the public to find and use and may inspire you to do likewise. A quick report will be given, as well, on an initiative to develop a 21st Century Right-to-Know agenda and recommendations for the next President and Congress.