The London-based Networked Neighbourhoods has released a set of extremely important studies on "the social impact of citizen-run online neighbourhood networks and the implications for local authorities."
This connects to the heart of the use of open government by the public - you need online public spaces where citizens in the context of governance (particularly with elected officials who can say, these are MY voters talking) are asking for information and generating new public opinion. These online spaces be they "community sites" or a dozen of the different technologies and approaches, are essential for everyday citizens to discuss government and broader community affairs. These exchanges generate general demand for and often specific requests for government information.
Also, from a DIY perspective, it is though these spaces that we see critical mass local adhocracy or coproduction opportunities emerge. (This what we see increasingly here http://e-democracy.org/nf at the neighborhood level.)
Very very in-depth - report links and my take on their work:
Included in the blog post above are updates on the proposed "Meet Your Neighbors Online Week" and the Neighborly nearest neighbors social networking idea.
I set up a Google Group for anyone who wants to drill down on the idea of hosting an apps contest for any and every city in the world. The group's home page is at http://groups.google.com/group/apps-for-everywhere If you're interested in working through it, helping decide if it's a workable idea, and figuring out how to make it really great, drop in and sign up.
Or feel free to write a reply to yesterday's thread, if you'd rather.
I will post periodically to Discussions and the Main Group about the idea if it continues to grow. But a Google Group will allow anyone interested to talk as much as they want without bothering the others on this list.
- Geddes' comment, that cities need data to have successful contests, rings very true. That's something that would have to be factored into any contest, in one way or another. There are lots of ways to approach this. One way would be to have two phases to a contest: the first phase involves discovering and organizing data sets for cities (with prizes) and the second phase involves building on those data sets. Other ways involve.... ? (Still thinking about this).
- Mariano's point, that many cities around the world do not have a critical mass of smart phones is also a good one. An effective "apps for everywhere" contest for the whole world would need to focus on apps for simpler mobile devices, as well as make use of common web 1.0 technology to really address the people it was claiming to address.
- If such a contest were to take root, it would need some level of on-the-ground support in cities around the world. To that effect, I would love to hear from people out there in cities other than NYC and DC who might have some interest in seeing this happen in their city.
- I'm thinking I'll start a Google Group for anyone who wants to actively kick this idea around with me. The DIYcity Discussions list has several hundred people on it, and I think that may actually dampen conversation at this point, as nobody wants to be stuffing other people's inboxes with multiple messages about things they may not care about. Will be back with that info in a bit.
Still just kicking this idea around, in the realm of the hypothetical...
Just after I wrote my previous post on DIYcity, I was struck with an idea. I've been weighing it back and forth ever since. Should I do it? Should I not do it?. And I'm still not sure what the answer is. So: I'm putting my cards on the table and asking people reading this to weigh in with their own answer, to help me decide.
Here's the idea:
Over the past two years, New York City, Washington D.C. and a spattering of other cities have been home to some great apps contests, and these contests have brought some wonderful new services to those cities. And that's great.
But what about the rest of the world?
What about Sao Paulo? What about Paris? What about New Delhi? What about Ciudad Juarez? What about the twenty-some megacities out there?
All of these cities, cities everywhere, should benefit from the kind of thinking and innovation that gets stirred up by apps contests. Not just NYC and DC.
And, as you know if you follow DIYcity, I've always thought that cities should do these sorts of things together, that by looking over each others' shoulders, rather than operating as city-states, they learn a lot more and get a lot farther.
So here is the question: should DIYcity hold an Apps Contest for everywhere?
It would be a contest just like Big Apps, but for every city in the world. Any developer, anywhere, could participate and build an app for their own city.
How would we finance the awards? We'd crowdsource it on Kickstarter.
How would we get word out? We'd have to crowdsource that, too. (I'm sure we could do that, if we decided it was worthwhile.)
So it would sort of be an un-contest. An apps contest put on not by a mayor, or by the world bank, but by ordinary people, and meeting the needs of the people.
The question that I want you to answer is: is this exciting, here on the cusp of 2011? Are apps contests still relevant? Or are they stale? Are they an effective way to spur innovation?
That's what I can't decide, personally. What do you think?
Note: This is NOT exactly where DIYcity is "thinking about going in 2011", when we talk about where we're going. But it could lead us down the road to that place in a nice way.
More on that soon. I feel like it's time to start playing more of an open hand as I and others think through all of these things.
For now though: please weigh in on this question. You can either reply to this thread, or if you'd rather you can respond to me privately at geraci at gmail dot com.
Hi to everyone who is subscribed to the DIYcity Discussions Group.
I wanted to write a quick note to say that I'm posting again, once a week, to DIYcity's Main Group.
I know there are many of you who are subscribed to Discussions and not to Main. If you want to be a part of the DIYcity thing right now and hear what's going on, please go check out the Main Group and sign up for it to receive notifications. Very low volume - one post a week from me.
This Discussions group will probably continue to be silent for now (though it doesn't have to be). So if you don't do anything, you'll probably continue to not get mail from DIYcity, just as you haven't for the past year.
Here is a link to my latest post in the Main Group.
Hello DIY friends!
I’m excited to tell you about this year’s Conflux festival! Conflux is the annual New York festival for contemporary psychogeography: the investigation of everyday urban life through emerging artistic, technological and social practice. At Conflux, visual and sound artists, writers, urban adventurers and the public gather for four days to explore their urban environment.
We are now accepting project submissions via our website http://www.confluxfestival.org
Now in its 7th year, Conflux 2010 is based on themes of INVESTIGATION, ACTION and TRANSMISSION. Conflux proposals must be submitted by August 15 ($10 administrative fee). Check the FAQ for guidelines and details.
If you aren’t interested in submitting but would still like to be involved we always need volunteers so let me know if you can help with the festival in any way--also a good way to get into Conflux for free : )
For more info check out the conflux blog and follow @confluxfestival on twitter.
Please pass this info along to anyone who might be interested.
See you at Conflux!
Assistant Director / Conflux Festival
heyadele[dot]com / [at]gmail
From Open Government to Open Communities
Join us for an open conversation on local online civic engagement as we share our ideas for building on open government toward more participatory and open communities.
* Who: You. Join Steven Clift, with E-Democracy.org who is leading the Ford Foundation-funded Participation 3.0 effort.
* What: Participation 3.0 - http://e-democracy.org/p3
* When: 10-11:30 a.m., Monday, March 29, 2010
* Where: Idealist.org, 302 Fifth Ave, 11th Floor
RSVP Not Required, but appreciated:
I look forward to connecting with old friends and meeting new people interested in open government, transparency, participation, community building, and more.
Since my work in the "e-democracy" space goes back 15+ years, those new to these issues might find these articles to be of interest - http://stevenclift.com - and this network - http://dowire.org - to be of value.
Hello everyone out there in DIYcity! Apologies for the silence here for the past two months - I've been hard at work at what I've long been calling "DIYcity part 2". And that is finally live, in alpha, today. But the surprise is it's not DIYcity. It's a brand-new site, Appify.com.
How did that happen?
Well, Danny Shapiro, Aditya Chada and I were working on revamping DIYcity, and the idea kept evolving, getting better, getting bigger, and at a certain point it became clear that this was no longer DIYcity but something entirely new.
At that point, we shelved the DIYcity framework and started running with the new one. The result is Appify. Here is an excerpt from a note I've sent around to a few mail lists this morning:
I'm excited to share with you a new site, launching today, that is all about local apps - *your* local apps.
It's about getting those apps discovered, and used, by everyone in your community. It's about learning exactly what the people around you want in the way of apps to make their communities work better. And it's about seeing what other areas have in the way of local and civic apps that your own local area could use as well.
The site is called Appify, and it's launching today in a "developer's alpha". We're looking for EVERYONE who has built a local app, on any platform, to come to the site, input their app (takes 30 seconds) check out the site, and give us feedback.
So - Appify is live, sort of, (alpha version for now, full version coming in January).
If you have a local app that you've built, please add it to Appify today.
If you have friends who have built local apps, please forward this post to them.
Please also follow us on twitter.com/appify.
And please read our blog at http://blog.appify.com.
So, if Appify is not DIYcity 2.0, what happens to DIYcity? I'll save that for another post - and since DIYcity has always been community-driven, it will be something I'll expect everyone to weigh in on.
For now - please check out Appify and let us know what you think!
Open311 intends to be a standard specification to create an open
platform for municipal service requests. More information at
Announcing Open311 DevCamp
On October 24th, The Open Planning Project will host Open311 DevCamp at
their NYC office. Please register to attend via Eventbrite (it’s free).
This is a DevCamp style un-conference to coordinate a standard
specification for 311 services. Washington D.C’s 311 API will be a
major case-study for developing a more universal 311 API. In general,
this DevCamp will be an opportunity to discuss and develop what’s
needed to make 311 services more accessible and for cities to share
knowledge for mutual benefit. The event is intended for developers,
project managers, and policy makers involved with 311 services. We
encourage those involved with 311 services from all cities to take
part. If you cannot attend in person, please sign up as a remote
attendee and we’ll provide you with information about how to connect to
the DevCamp remotely.
If you have feedback or questions, please add them to the comments on
or reply to this
I hope to see you there!
(apologies if you received this multiple times, it was cross posted to
I've been watching the discussion trying to figure out the DIY City's wavelength.
I think part of what we see emerging on the local (neighborhood) Issues Forums hosted by E-Democracy.Org fit your model of citizen problem-solving. My experience is that at the very very very local level people will pick shovels and do stuff, while up the chain people prefer their tax dollars to do the work so they don't have to be bothered.
On my local neighborhood Issues Forum - http://e-democracy.org/se - we've had people start community garden efforts, ask if people want to do a blood drive and then promote it, suggest and then organize a volunteer lake clean-up (only to run into trouble getting connected to the right person in the parks department for permission), buy flower bulbs in bulk for their homes with some left over for public space, etc. Recently, a mugging at a new local light rail stop generated a flurry of activity: http://blog.e-democracy.org/posts/355
Anyway, since a number of you will be at Participation Camp, I thought I should say hello. If any of you would like to talk neighborhoods online to gather tips from 15 years on the front lines of e-participation, check out the two sessions I'll be leading or virtually note - http://e-democracy.org/if - for an existing Webinar and some links here: http://pages.e-democracy.org/Social_media_in_local_public_life
I just read this article on CNET about open source mobile phone projects and their potential to revolutionize data collection from phone users. Snippet from the article:
Both companies/projects are interesting because they treat mobile as a data source, not as a computer.
In the case of InSTEDD (Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters), it's a nonprofit that helps developing nations coordinate disaster relief efforts by helping relief agencies share, aggregate, and analyze data from mobile phones.
InSTEDD's GeoChat technology accomplishes this by enabling mobile phone users to broadcast alerts ("Typhoon has hit our city"), but it becomes even more interesting when combined with InSTEDD's Mesh4x technology
Mesh4x allows information to flow between established applications (like Excel, Access, GoogleEarth, MySQL, Oracle and many others), and between devices (laptops, smartphones, PDAs, and servers) reliably, selectively, and securely in a distributed "data mesh". If necessary, Mesh4X can synchronize data over nothing but a stream of SMS messages, merely by plugging an ordinary cellphone into a laptop.
Seems like this could be a big part of the puzzle involved in developing DIY Cities. I wonder if this will get widely implemented across platforms or if it will wallow in obscurity.
I've been lurking around DIY and watching some interesting ideas bantered
about, and the "user interface for cities" persuaded me it might be an
opportune time to add a tad to the conversation. But the "user interface for
cities" is a bit too global for me, I've only interacted with New York
City's institutions, formal and informal. And for me, even thinking about a
single interface for NYC with it's 8 million residents, 300,000 city
employees, and 400 square miles is perhaps a bit overwhelming.
I'm working on a campaign to acquire a retro Internet resource, the .nyc TLD
(like .com and .org but just for New York City). While there are many
interesting features to it, the one that's grabbed my attention - and I
think is relevant here - is dotNeighborhoods: developing the neighborhood
names that will become available with the arrival of the .nyc TLD -
astoria.nyc, brooklyn-heights.nyc, clinton.nyc, GreenwichVillage.nyc, etc,
as the building blocks for a more livable city. There are 300+ of these
traditional "named neighborhoods" in New York City. Our goal is to create
effective local communication channels using the neighborhood domain name
Those who've been engaged with local issues learn after some bruises that
while the city might be a global communication center, local communication
is dreadful. I lived in Terre Haute, Indiana for a couple of years in the
late 1960s. It had 6 radio and 2 TV stations and a daily newspaper
addressing the needs of its 100,000 residents. My community district (3
Queens where I was a member for 14 years) doesn't have any of those
resources to facilitate communication between our 200,000 residents. (Parts
of the district have access to a weekly newspaper.)
So the question I'm dealing with is, What's the "user interface" to make the
most of these dotNeighborhoods?
In New York City I see three levels of civic interaction - neighborhood,
issue, and government. From a historic perspective, prior to the 1980's and
the arrival of community boards, there was more effective local activism,
largely centered on political clubs and civic organizations. Community
Boards put another level of (underfunded and resourced) bureaucracy between
residents and city hall.
So if we take a leap here and assume that neighborhoods are of reasonable
dimension for local governance, providing a core identity for New Yorkers,
what does the dotNeighborhood interface look like?
It's needs links to city hall data silos, and your 1.0 DIY below identifies
many of these. Also, it needs to make presentation, decision making, and
collaboration tools available for neighborhoods. And it needs a way to
facilitate organization around issues - those that are not necessarily of
interest to the entire hood. I've proposed Issue-Communities as a part of
this, see http://bit.ly/hb1Ds. It combines the mapping features of
seeclickfix.com with some organizing features, enabling a civilized anarchy.
We'll be discussing the dotNeighborhood user interface at the Neighborhood
Preservation Center, 232 E. 11th Street, 6-8 PM on June 24. This is our
second meeting on dotNeighborhoods and we'll be discussing the guidelines
for allocating names, content obligations; who qualifies and how one applies
to operate a neighborhood channel; and the oversight processes. See
http://bit.ly/hb1Ds for more. I think the DIY movement could add a lot to
the effort and I invite all to attend.
----- Original Message -----
From: "John Geraci"
Sent: Friday, June 12, 2009 1:00 PM
Subject: Discussions: 'A DIYcity 1.0 Framework' at DIYcity #post-543.
> Post 'A DIYcity 1.0 Framework' by John Geraci
> I'm still thinking about the notion of a "user interface for cities and
> their residents", and thinking about what the key components of a 1.0 of
> such a system would be. This is, after all, what we've set out in some
> small way to work toward - a general user interface for cities
> everywhere, that residents of those cities can plug into. Maybe working
> toward that just means outlining what the main components are, maybe it
> means pointing to instances of it in each city, and maybe it means
> building it ourselves. Or maybe it is some combination of those three
> At any rate, following up on Tuesday's post  about outlining a
> DIYcity 1.0, I'm taking the very simple, conceptual step of taking those
> services I was talking about and thinking of them explicitly in terms of
> DIY Transportation
> DIY Police Services
> DIY Emergency Care
> DIY Public Health
> DIY Waste Management
> DIY Education (added by nickyg)
> and a few others:
> DIY Resource Location
> DIY Alt Transportation (bikes etc)
> DIY Citizen Coordination
> and I'm thinking of these as top-level categories for possible DIY
> Inside those categories of course you could fit hundreds of individual
> apps. And we will, eventually. But if we start by outlining the
> top-level categories for a user interface for cities, then we can start
> to think more clearly about what a 1.0 interface should include. Or
> rather what it needs to include.
> (I left off of this list a lot of services that I think are not
> innately DIY-friendly: Fire service for instance. If you think I'm
> wrong to leave these things out of the framework for a DIYcity 1.0, let
> me know.)
> So that's where I am today: with a rough outline of a framework for a
> DIYcity 1.0, a user interface for cities. That will get codified
> somewhat into the site itself going forward, and we will begin to
> formulate ideas around these.
> I still feel like this is an incomplete list. I've gotten a few good
> responses from people off-list about this. If you have any other ideas
> on this, please send em my way.
>  http://diycity.org/discussions/outlining-diycity-10
> Read more: http://diycity.org/node/543
> Post reply: http://diycity.org/comment/reply/543#comment-form, or you can
> post a new post by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Note that if you reply to this mail delete the quoted text and do not
> modify the subject field or the message will not reach it's destiny.
> You are subscribed from the group 'Discussions' at DIYcity.
> To manage your subscription, visit http://diycity.org/og/manage/58.
I'm still thinking about the notion of a "user interface for cities and their residents", and thinking about what the key components of a 1.0 of such a system would be. This is, after all, what we've set out in some small way to work toward - a general user interface for cities everywhere, that residents of those cities can plug into. Maybe working toward that just means outlining what the main components are, maybe it means pointing to instances of it in each city, and maybe it means building it ourselves. Or maybe it is some combination of those three things.
At any rate, following up on Tuesday's post about outlining a DIYcity 1.0, I'm taking the very simple, conceptual step of taking those services I was talking about and thinking of them explicitly in terms of DIY:
DIY Police Services
DIY Emergency Care
DIY Public Health
DIY Waste Management
DIY Education (added by nickyg)
and a few others:
DIY Resource Location
DIY Alt Transportation (bikes etc)
DIY Citizen Coordination
and I'm thinking of these as top-level categories for possible DIY applications.
Inside those categories of course you could fit hundreds of individual apps. And we will, eventually. But if we start by outlining the top-level categories for a user interface for cities, then we can start to think more clearly about what a 1.0 interface should include. Or rather what it needs to include.
(I left off of this list a lot of services that I think are not innately DIY-friendly: Fire service for instance. If you think I'm wrong to leave these things out of the framework for a DIYcity 1.0, let me know.)
So that's where I am today: with a rough outline of a framework for a DIYcity 1.0, a user interface for cities. That will get codified somewhat into the site itself going forward, and we will begin to formulate ideas around these.
I still feel like this is an incomplete list. I've gotten a few good responses from people off-list about this. If you have any other ideas on this, please send em my way.
Another post to a local group (DIY Atlanta, which has only one member currently) that I wanted to share with the Discussions group:
James Charlesworth at Neboweb in Atlanta, GA built this site for people living in Atlanta. The site is a great step towards open information in the area and will help locals identify crime history by neighborhood. The site is:
atlantacrimereport looks very cool.
original post here: http://diycity.org/atlanta/atlanta-crime-report
Reposting this to Discussions from the DIY Vancouver Group. Seems like a cool idea, wanted everyone to see it, not just the people in Vancouver:
Hello, I'm Jared Bachynski. I came across this site from a recent David Eaves blog post, and thought I'd mention an something that I would love to see implemented in Vancouver: a Tool Lending Library.
See here for Berkeley's implementation of the concept:
Naturally, this is taking the DIY of DIYcity a little too literally; worthwhile enough to mention, nevertheless.
I don't think that's taking the DIY of DIYcity too literally at all. I don't think there's any such thing as taking the DIY too literally - question is more "how literally can you take it?
Original post here:
Hey, I think Melissa has uncovered a new bug on DIYcity.
Sorry all - will get this closed in the next round of bug fixes, hopefully before an out-of-office cascade happens on the list.
On the plus side, nice to see the City of Perth is active on DIYcity!
"I will be out of the office starting 11/06/2009 and will not return until 22/06/2009."
I will be out of the office starting 11/06/2009 and will not return until
For any urgent enquiries, I will be available on 0417 986 951. You can also
contact the City of Perth Marketing office on 9461 3132, otherwise I will
respond to your email upon my return.
For any City of Perth Winter Arts Season queries, please contact
As I was preparing a presentation on DIYcity recently, I started thinking about the idea of a "do-it-yourself city", a city that tunes into its own data to create services and tools for residents without relying on government, and without needing big budgets to sustain itself. What would such a city look like? What services commonly offered by cities are things that could be extended, improved, even replaced entirely with a Do-It-Yourself framework? What would a 1.0 version of a DIY City look like?
In the process of thinking about this I visited Wikipedia's page on Public Services. Their list of public services includes:
Public information and archiving, such as libraries
From that and other sources, I came up with my own list of services that I thought were really ripe for DIY-ification:
...with the following subsets to each category:
Transportation - subway + bus scheduling, accident alerts, traffic control + routing
Police Services - crime alert, crime prevention, crime awareness
Emergency Care - crisis detection, response, evacuation
Public Health - outbreak detection, public alerts, deterrence
Waste Management - recycling, reduction, location of hazards
...and that was what I presented as a list of low-hanging fruit for DIYcity-type initiatives. Sort of a first stab at an outline for a DIY City 1.0.
Of course, I'm always surprised on the site by the ideas other people have for DIY-type initiatives, and how different they are from my own, so this list is admittedly my own perspective, and not complete.
And now I'm thinking about this again, and I'm interested in putting together a roadmap of services that could be improved with DIY-type methods, to begin to really outline what a DIYcity 1.0 would look like.
So what do you think? Do you like my list? Are there things I'm leaving off?
If so, let me know. As part of the Next Steps for DIYcity, I need to create a finalized version of this "roadmap" to a DIYcity 1.0.
DIYtraffic should be entered here. Also, I'd be interested in discussing an approach that actually gets people out of their cars. NickBegin forwarded message:From: Aaron Naparstek <email@example.com>Date: June 1, 2009 5:17:14 PM EDTTo: firstname.lastname@example.orgSubject: [TOPP Labs] Hack Traffic Win $50KReply-To: email@example.com From Elana Schor at the ITSA conference....http://www.streetsblog.org/2009/06/01/solve-the-congestion-crisis-and-win-50000Solve the Congestion Crisis And Win $50,000by Elana Schor on June 1, 2009Have you ever idled in traffic or waited for a late bus while thinking: "The city government should put me in charge of fixing this mess"?Well, it's time to make notes on that brilliant traffic-calming idea. The Intelligence Transportation Society of America (ITSA) kicked off a $50,000 "Congestion Challenge" today that seeks to pair social networking with innovative transportation policy-making.Co-sponsored by Spencer Trask, a private equity firm specializing in high-tech investments, the contest asks transportation professionals and everyday citizens to submit their proposals for clearing the nation's jam-packed roads, bridges and transitways. Each submission will be judged based on its ability to address five issues: sustainability, safety, behavioral impact, economic competitiveness, and speed & efficiency.But the most compelling aspect of the challenge is its approach to judging. Instead of subjecting entries to an evaluation panel that might be too tied to outmoded ways of thinking, the ITSA asks aspiring judges and contestants to set up their own Facebook-style profile pages (register for your own right here) and rate entries themselves.This democratic format appears ripe for urbanites to flood the zone with support for genuinely worthy ideas. If livable streets advocates can organize and support a congestion solution devised from within their own ranks, one can imagine a lot of state and federal DOT officials taking notice.--Archive: http://team.openplans.org/projects/topp-labs/lists/topp-labs-discussion/...To unsubscribe send an email with subject "unsubscribe" to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact email@example.com for questions. --Nick GrossmanThe Open Planning Project -- http://firstname.lastname@example.org | tweets @nickgrossman | (917) 388-9040
There was an interesting comment in the DIY Paris group the other day that I wanted to point people to, as I've been meaning to suggest that we start to drill down on the topic of crime in the city. jrdesvernay has a good idea here. The general topic of crime is so ripe for a million different DIY ideas - focusing on awareness, prevention, alerts, possible i/o with police, etc -- that I've been feeling for a while like it was time to call attention to it on the site.
So next week look for a discussion or a challenge or something on that. In the meantime, see jrdesvernay's comment here:
SickCity is really in need of some text analytics work (entity extraction, classification) to make it really seaworthy. The team working on it has gotten as far as it can by regular means of searching keywords, omitting bad words, etc. We need to step it up and do some professional-level term analysis.
Do you, or someone you know, know how to do this?
If so, let us know. Or just show up in the SickCity Dev Group and say hi.
First off in discussions I wanted to gauge people's interest level in the idea I floated yesterday here about selling DIYcity iPhone apps and sharing revenue amongst the people who contribute.
Here's briefly how I see this working:
1. projects are broken down into discrete tasks on a to-do list
2. anyone can step in and complete a particular task or series of tasks on that list
3. in that way, projects get completed by the group in a self-organizing way
4. anyone who completes one or more task on the to-do list receives a share of any revenue that results from the sale of smart phone applications based on that project
(later on: 5. anyone can start a project of their own on DIYcity in this vein).
Is this interesting to people here? Would you personally be interested in stepping in and working on a task or series of tasks, as in #2 above? Or is this totally uninteresting? What's your assessment? Tell me.
Reply to the thread or write me directly if you prefer.
This week, in lieu of discussions about ways to make cities work better, I want to start some threads about the DIYcity experiment in selling collectively-built apps and sharing the revenue from those as a way to drive production on the site. If you didn't see yesterday's post on this to the Main Group, see here (or longer version here).
I'd love input on these threads from anyone and everyone. Any feedback given now could save us a lot of time down the road, when ideas are being implemented. So if you have anything to say about any of this, please say it. If you don't like posting directly to the list, feel free to send me your thoughts off-list at geraci ... gmail dot com.
Just posted a note to the DIYtraffic Dev Group that I'm interested in upgrading that app, to make it something that is really excellent and useful for people. Check out the post, and if you want to get involved let me know.
Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures has a good piece on his blog today about creating an open 311 by using what he calls "the public channel". Fred's idea for an open 311 is pretty much inline with the central premise of DIYcity (and Fred gives a nice shout-out to us in the post), and I think it mirrors the way we on this site would do it, if it was up to us.
I've been meaning to write up a 1-pager on the idea of an open 311, which a friend to DIYcity has offered to give to Bloomberg's staff (he thinks Bloomberg would be very friendly to the idea). I just haven't had time, if you can believe it. And I feel like it's an opportunity that is slipping away. So, in best crowdsourcing fashion, I'm turning it over to the crowd here on DIYcity. Can people collectively come up with ideas on an open 311 for NYC? What would it look like? What would be the advantages of it? How would it make the city better? How would it make life easier/cheaper/better for the government?
Let's have an open discussion on this today, then boil it down and present that as a 1-pager. Names will be named, so if you contribute your ideas, they'll go into any final document that gets presented.
After I saw the huge success of @TamaleTracker I thought, we can't be the only people who could benefit from a real time messaging service like this. Why not utilize what Twitter has provided for me, a common data source that people are becoming more and more familiar with, combined with this technology and make it available for anyone who wants to create their own tamale tracker or other service to aggregate their followers content. So I created the Spotd service to do just that.
Spotd and its a free service that listens for @replies sent to a Twitter account and then relays those messages through itself. It's the same functionality as the Tamale Tracker but this can be used for anyone and anyone can set one up. Simply register a Twitter account to the Spotd service and any reply sent to the account will be retweeted.
In addition to being a bot for Twitter accounts, Spotd also is my try at creating a real time communication device for cities and towns across the world. I spend a lot of time walking around Chicago and see interesting things happen all the time - people getting arrested, car accidents, buildings on fire, bank robbery, protests and other news-worthy things. I tweet about them, but I wanted to create something to give people a common source of communication throughout their city to stay on top of things that are happening right now without having to wait for major media outlets to cover them. That’s where the Spotd news service comes in, it is an aggregated, user-submitted news feed for interesting things going on - so far, I created accounts for @SpotdChicago, @SpotdLA, @SpotdSF and @SpotdNYC; with more to come and any user can create their own Spotd news service for their own city.
I hope you can see the value in this as much as I do, if you'd like more information, have any suggestions or would like to help me work on this, please feel free to contact me.
Ok, so on 9th March, Transport Minister Stephen Joyce outlined New Zealand's infrastructure's current and future needs over the coming 20 years. Don't know about you, but I'm not prepared to wait for the creation of government-driven projects that try to solve questions that open technology can already answer.
How about approaching something simple for a starting point. Is there any way we can make sense of the jumbled mess of government websites - help communicate Wellington's services and culture in a joined-up way, so that people can actually get value from them?
Acting on a request from some health researchers in the U.S., we've been trying for the last 24 hours to improve SickCity's algorithms to be able to track new developments of the swine flu outbreak.
After initially being flooded with tweets about the swine flu *media event* as opposed to actual flu outbreaks, the tool has now gotten to be a lot stronger - we're now able to ignore a large percentage of tweets that are about the media event, to focus on tweets about actual sickness. We're also tracking better terms - for instance instead of 'headcold', we're tracking 'fever'. We still have to make it stronger, however - among other things we have to get better at sniffing out false positives (e.g. "spring fever" should not trigger alert for "fever"). We also still have to flush out all of the false positives we have accumulated in the past 24 hours - the site right now looks like a gigantic flu outbreak happened all over the world simultaneously. That will be fixed some time today.
What we really need right now is translation of terms into other languages. All of the countries in SickCity are tracking terms in english ("fever", "sore throat", "flu", etc). If anyone can help translate these terms and others into other languages, that would be a big help. We've set up a wiki page where you can do this. Should only take one minute to do.
Anyone else wanting to pitch in to make SickCity more accurate (especially anyone good at term extraction and elimination of false positives) please join the SickCity Development Group and post a note.
Haven't looked at this too closely yet, and have to run right now, but wanted to post it to Discussions - may be of interest.
The World Bank's first API offers 114 indicators from key data sources and 12,000 development photos (see all sources). We are releasing this API because we believe this information can be mapped, visualized and mashed up in an unlimited number of ways that will help develop a better understanding of trends and patterns around key development issues.
I wanted to let share with the group a new project I just started working on this week using the same technology as the @tamaletracker (twitter.com/tamaletracker). I spend a lot of time walking around Chicago and always notice interesting things going on – from people getting arrested, to celebrity sightings and news-worthy events. I tweet about these sort of things, but have always thought it would be nice to have something or someone to tweet these to, a common data source and place to go for this sort of information. That’s where @Spotd (twitter.com/spotd) comes in, it is an aggregated, user-submitted news feed for interesting things going on, specific to the city you live in - Chicago for now.
I, like many people, always want to be on top of things going on in Chicago (from the standpoint of locals) – this is the perfect way for people to stay updated on what’s going on, right now, in their city. This includes and is not limited to crime reports, breaking news, celebrity sightings, traffic incidents, etc. Best of all with the support of Twitpic users can get actual footage of things that are happening instead of waiting for the major news networks to get out and report on them.
The functionality is the same as the @tamaletracker system. Users tweet a reply to @spotd when they witness said arrests, celebrity sightings and news-worthy events. The system then will relay their message through the http://twitter.com/spotd user account.
In the next couple days(I hope) I am going to whip up a web page and some more descriptive text about the service and make it more extensible than the built in Twitter functionality. As of now I only created an account for Chicago, however this can easily be expanded in a manner of minutes.
I hope you can see the value in this as much as I do, if you'd like more information or have any suggestions, please feel free to contact me.
She says "Interesting and fun, but wouldn't happen in large scale."
I'm not so sure though. I think something like this (minus the free tix from airlines for publicity) could become a common way to get around in the future, with the right tool in place, accentuating the right things for people.
What do others think?
Lots of city agencies all over the world have data online that is accessible to humans in readable format, yet isn't accessible to other computers and programs via an API. Some agencies don't have the means to turn their data into an API, others don't have the inclination to do so.
Can we help these agencies to open their data?
DIYcity Challenge #7: build a site scraper for the website of a city agency in your city that scrapes data, dumps it into a database, and offers that to everyone in API format.
Do not violate any copyrights for this challenge - please only scrape publicly accessible government data, not data from 3rd party sites.
DIYcity can help host any scraping bots, databases and APIs that come out of this challenge. Or just point us to a dataset you've scraped and we'll make a list in the wiki.
we migrated the site to a new server over the weekend, and now you should be able to post messages without seeing the white screen of death. which means nobody will be re-posting their messages thinking the original didn't go through, which means you wont be receiving 4x of the same email in your inbox each time someone posts something to discussions.
so feel secure in your posts to DIYcity - they will get to their audience, and you wont be annoying people with accidental reposts.
I wanted to circle back around on the Taxi Share idea that was discussed here a while back. If we could make something that worked, it would be really worthwhile, and also pretty damn cool.
I was thinking about how to do it, and it seems to me you'd just need a system that:
1. knows where you are or can make sense of you telling it where you are
2. knows who your friends are, and who their friends are, etc., outward x degrees
3. knows where those people are, if they've checked in lately
4. assumes you're using the system to share a taxi ride
And then lets the users take care of the rest.
Once you have this, you also have a generic framework for pairing any two co-located people around any common interest. So you could abstract this and apply it to all sorts of things. Would be very useful for facilitating a variety of sharing-type actions throughout cities.
This kind of seems like a generic, open version of foursquare. But I'm wondering - could you cobble it together using a variety of the standard tools, twitter, facebook, etc? Could you make it something that people could use without having to sign up for, because they've already signed up for all of those other things? E.g. "Direct message this service and we'll reply with someone who wants to share a taxi ride."
Any thoughts here? Anyone want to take this and run with it, or else tell me this is half baked? (Actually, it is half-baked and I'm counting on someone else to bake it fully for me...)
HeavyMeta, you blocked comments on your posts, or i would have put this there.... i know its obviously the most appropriate venue,.... this was second best
regarding your post, "thingfinding application", i think its a great idea... check out http://ourfaves.com/ as a model... its a great site, but underutilized.... maybe a good starting point to work from.
I encountered a formulation of "thingfinding" (http://is.gd/ozjk) today and it got me thinking that this could be the basis of a fairly easy-to-make and really awesome DIYCity application. Could we begin to build a ground-up database of things in the city?
I'm imagining a smartphone app that just allows you to take a picture of something, say what it is, and then it gets entered with location data into a database. Perhaps it would also allow for some additional metadata to contribute to its description.
Eventually, everything people care enough about to submit might go in here. Everything from favorite types of shampoo to the Brooklyn Bridge. It would be the beginning of a kind of location-based catalog of the stuff that exists in the city. Eventually, you would be able to query it and find the closest place to buy that shampoo, or in a broader way to find anything else you needed or were looking for.
Maybe it could just start as a database of people's favorite things, and see where it goes from there. I'd be happy to help out on this if anyone is interested in developing the concept/application.
The DIYcity Challenge for this week is this: come up with a DIYcity Challenge.
What is something in your city that is ripe for improvement? What service could be done better (or cheaper) using open, participatory web technologies? What is an instance where your city government is approaching the solution to some problem all wrong?
In other words: what are the real problems that need solving, exactly? And which of these problems is the low hanging fruit?
There are lots of policy people, planners and people with ideas about their city on this list - this is your chance to speak up and help inform the building that goes on via the Challenges here on DIYcity.
All answers must be in the form of a Challenge. All answers will be reposted as DIYcity Challenges.
Post your response/challenge below.
So the question came up yesterday on this thread whether anybody knew of a reliable RSS feed for traffic updates in Barcelona. Since that was in the Main Group I though we should end the thread there and restart it here in Discussions.
And I decided to go one step further and open it up as a general question for everyone everywhere: what is the best source for traffic updates in RSS for your city or country?
If we can figure that out for a lot of countries other than the U.S., we can get DIYtraffic up and running in lots of places around the world.
I created a wiki page stub for people to add to if they have any knowledge on this issue.
Do you know of an RSS feed for traffic updates? Post it to the wiki!
I've been meaning for a while to post an invitation to everyone to work together on the mobile phone pinging system that has been discussed on the site as an alternative to expensive centralized bus tracking systems going in to some cities.
This seems like it would be really easy and straightforward to build, especially the way roygbiv approaches it in that thread linked to above.
If anyone is interested in figuring this out and getting it built, send an email to email@example.com and we'll get going on it.
Wanted to start a thread here in case anybody wants to comment on the launch of SickCity. Comments, ideas, criticisms (constructive, of course), tangential musings? Post em here.
Design an app that works as an early warning system for outbreaks of flu, colds and other communicable disease at the city level. Bonus points for making it a system that can be easily applied to any city. Extra bonus points for going so far as to outline a spec for getting it built.
And once we have this one in the bag, we'll build it.
p.s. - Tweet this Challenge!
So, the team who pulled together DIYtraffic did a great job of it, and I think it's an awesome beta app. What should be the next steps for making it better, more useful and easier to adopt?
What should DIYtraffic 1.0 look like?
DIYcity Challenge #4: Create an app that promotes bike riding in the city somehow: makes it easier to get from point A to point B, makes it less stressful, simpler, whatever.
Ianb has an idea for a "Cooperative Bike Share" that uses just a few combination locks and text messaging to create a bike share program for local communities. (People at DIYcity Portland are considering the possibility of testing the concept in their city).
It gets me to thinking - what other ways could you use web technologies to make riding a bike around the city easier? How could you use maps, apis, user input, whatever, to support bike riding as opposed to driving?
This is a pretty broad-open question, and submissions/ideas may be widely varied. Ianb's idea is inspiring, but don't let it guide your thinking too much for your answer.
If you have an actual app to submit in response, submit it here and it will be reposted as its own post. If you want to contribute a thought, use the reply link below.
Next week we'll move on to Challenges that aren't so totally transportation-centered...
Bike share systems come up periodically over a period of years and in many communities (the WikiPedia page has a lot of info). The latest systems are electronic rental systems, with custom bikes and special locations for pick up and drop off. Very simple systems have existed in the past where bikes are just shared in a totally free way -- these systems are extremely cheap to set up, but the bikes always end up trashed or stolen. (Though there's a system in Portland that seems to just use a universal combination.)
I can imagine a very simple system based on combination bike locks, where the combination is sent via SMS, and locations are tracked (somewhat) voluntarily. You would sign up for this service, maybe placing a modest deposit (and also confirming your identity). Then you would send your location to the service (as a text) and it would respond with the nearest bike, and the combination. You would use the bike, and when you were done you would text the new location of the bike.
There would be some accountability with this system, because if you simply don't return the bike there would be some record of this. The service could also continue to pester you if you don't record the new location of the bicycle.
The security is not very high, and it would certainly be possible to take a loss on many bikes. But considering people *almost* considered it economically viable to do this sort of system with no money or accountability involved, perhaps just a small amount of accountability would resolve these problems. The capital expenses should be much smaller than more formal systems.
(I first thought about this idea here and restated for this forum)
I wanted to split the 'pinger' idea off from last week's discussion on DIYcity Challenge #3, and focus on it by itself, outside of the context of the NYC MTA questions.
It seems to me that a simple pinging application built into users' phones could potentially be hugely valuable to cities for a variety of uses.
The app would take the GPS info from the user's phone, along with unique ID, and one or two other parameters, and send that at regular intervals to a centralized server.
That server would then receive that info and be able to plot the location, course and speed of the person hosting that app.
If the other parameters included in each ping included, for example, the ID of a particular bus, or a bus route, or a highway number, or any other data that gave that ping concrete meaning, the ping could then act as a very simple mechanism for tracking movement - either movement of traffic in general, or of transit systems, or whatever.
As others have pointed out, you wouldn't need that many devices participating to be able to draw general conclusions about traffic movement or transit locations.
What you've got then is a distributed, DIY tracking system that would be for all intents and purposes free to cities to implement (as opposed to the hundreds of millions in setup and however much in maintenance that a centralized system would cost).
For cities that already have tracking systems, this could be cheaper to maintain. For cities that don't yet have them this could be a way to get them without spending millions.
Big problems include:
- getting adoption by a critical mass of users (and what defines critical mass in this case?)
- finding an easy way to get those extra parameters into the ping (asking users to enter bus IDs into their phones each time they ride the bus isn't an acceptable route in my opinion).
What do others think about this? Is there anything here, or is this a pipe dream? Could this be of service to cities anywhere?
I'm especially curious to hear opinions from people with actual expertise in any of the areas this touches on.
Everyblock (http://everyblock.com) is reaching the end of their Knight Foundation grant, and will be open sourcing their codebase on June 30th (http://www.holovaty.com/writing/everyblock-future/). So, the question is, how could an open source Everyblock be used by DIYcitizens?
Develop plan for a scaleable grassroots bus tracking system that operates in realtime.
The New York City MTA just abandoned its second effort at providing a bus tracking system for the city's buses. From the article on NY1.com:
It's the second time the MTA has thrown in the towel on a tracking system. Back in 1996, a similar project failed, in part because satellite signals were lost in the skyscraper canyons of Manhattan -- just one of many issues, the MTA says, that makes it difficult to predict arrival times.
"It's not just the urban canyons, but the schedules, the tight schedules, the headways, the traffic. The operating environment I think is the most challenging of any city's," said Sassan Davoodi, Co-Project Manager, NYC Transit.
Can you come up with a plan for a bus tracking system that can be put in place in a DIY way, that addresses the above issues and is scalable?
Post your solutions as responses to this post.
(topic for this challenge appropriated from Anthony's post here)
Sorry to post to two groups, but I think this essay and interview with Usman Haque, creator of Pachube, is worth general discussion as well as posting in sensor networks. Interesting that Bruce Sterling was involved as "visionary adviser".
"For years, political parties have amassed national databases on voters. Now voter groups are increasingly collecting data on the politicians. This includes an ambitious new effort to create a central repository of data on all 513,000 U.S. elected officials, down to village councilor and sewer district board member.
American Solutions, a national grassroots group based in Washington, DC, that was founded by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich but describes its Internet effort as nonpartisan, is preparing to launch a site that will, at first, allow people to enter basic contact information on all local officials. Then future users can enter their full nine-digit zip code to find the local officials who represent them."