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.
The whole premise of DIYcity from the very beginning has been not to focus merely on hypothetical discussion and idea exchange, but to actually assemble teams of people, distributed around the world, to build these ideas, launch them, improve on them, and see them get put to use by communities everywhere.
Of course to do that, we first had to come up with some ideas, and to do that we had to create an architecture of discussion - so that's where we started, and that's what we focused on at first, via DIYcity Challenges and the DIscussions Group.
Now we're at a point where we actually have some pretty good ideas, in various stages of pre- and post-launch existence, and we need an architecture that supports the distributed development of these projects - from breaking first ground on them, through launch, to support, and through continued refinement and extension.
As a first step toward creating that architecture of distributed development, we've created a new class of groups on DIYcity: Development Groups. You'll find them in the right-side nav, just below the Main Groups.
These groups exist as a common point of exchange for everyone participating in the development of a particular project on DIYcity. Conversation in these groups is between people working on a project, and relates to the actual development of the project in question. If there's a project you want to get involved with and contribute to, joining that project's Development Group is a good place to start.
As we come up with more good ideas and move them into development phase, this list will get much longer. And soon you will be able to add your own development group to DIYcity and start a discussion on your own about developing a particular application.
We have more plans for ways to build out and support this architecture of participation and development on DIYcity, so that the site is really humming along. Look for some fun and exciting changes to happen in the coming weeks...
Today we've activated some much-needed and long-awaited improvements to DIYcity which should make your user experience much more pleasurable as you continue to reinvent the world around you with others here on the site.
Lots of changes have been made, more than I will go into here, but the main ones are:
1. You can now choose to receive email for any group as a daily digest instead of individually. Lots of people have been complaining about this since day one, as sometimes threads take off in Discussions so fast that you can turn around and have 20 emails in your inbox. If that kind of thing doesn't appeal to you, just do this:
- log in
- go to the page for the group in question
- click on "My Membership" in the left-side nav
- select "receive daily digest" and submit.
(you can also use this form to turn on emails if you aren't getting them for a group, or turn them off altogether).
2. Email messages from groups should now appear with the sender's username in the FROM: field. Formerly emails came in with the group's name in the FROM field, which meant you had no idea who was sending the email. This should be a nice timesaver, giving you that info w/o having to click the message.
3. Posts on the home page now say what group they were posted from. There are so many groups on DIYcity now that the home page shows conversations from all over the place . Without that group info attached to the messages, you have no context about what you're reading, who sent it and who the intended audience is. Now all posts appear with clickable group info in the header, like so:
Submitted by davidberch on 14 April 2009 - 6:59pm to DIY El Paso, TX.
4. Lastly, the timeout error on submissions of new posts that was haunting DIYcity for so long is now closed. It has been closed for a while now, but I wanted to repost that in case anyone is still nervous about posting to the site and being met with a scary blank screen.
Okay, that's all! Slow week on the site this week, which as usual means big things are in the works behind the scenes...
Hi all -- I'm guest-blogging on O'Reilly Radar this month about DIYcity-related themes. The first post, 'The Future of Our Cities: Open, Crowdsourced, and Participatory', went live yesterday and seems to have been met with enthusiasm. Please check it out at:
Will be posting once a week for the next month. If you want you can follow via RSS here: http://radar.oreilly.com/jgeraci/
That's how I'm reading it. This post says it targets Sling, but it
looks like it applies to many other server or data apps not directly
in a browser.
What do other folks think?
Center for Community
Lower Eastside Girls Club
The Daily Glyph
Cell 646 704 2021
I just created a new group on the site, SickCity Development, where the discussion about making SickCity better will happen between the people working on it. Anyone who wants should join in and participate.
I did this for a couple of reasons: one, there's a very interesting conversation going on about improving SickCity right now among those developing it, but it's totally invisible to everyone except the developers. I wanted to make that conversation visible to all. Two, this is supposed to be a crowdsourced project, and if all of the conversations happen behind closed doors, there wont be much crowdsourcing going on, beyond what we've already got.
So going forward we will try to have as much of our communication about development as possible go through this group, so that the process can be seen by all, and contributed to by any who care to get involved.
Check it out. To start it off I just posted 3 of the most recent emails sent regarding the improvement of SickCity.
I've been too busy lately to even post a quick note to the site here, but DIYcity Challenge #7 is finally online in Discussions.
The challenge: help city agencies everywhere to open their data by building a site scraper and API for them.
It suddenly feels like we've come a long way with DIYcity in a pretty short time - we've launched a few apps that are getting a lot of attention around the web, the site itself and the idea behind it is starting to catch people's ear, and our numbers continue to grow.
I feel like there could be a DIYcity tipping point approaching somewhere in the not-too-distant future.
This week, though, rather than focusing on that, I'm feeling a need to try to consolidate what we've done so far. SickCity and DIYtraffic are close to being actual, useful tools, ready for adoption and use by cities. We've also got a lot of ideas hanging half-finished on the site that I would love to see pushed farther. I've seen now how much traction these ideas have when they're presented right, and I think we've got several ideas ripe for that kind of thing.
So this week, rather than launching into a new round of Challenges, I personally want to focus on making what we already have better.
If anyone wants to help out on that in any way, drop a note. I'll also start these up in Discussions, so you can jump in if you want.
Here's what I want to work on this week:
- improving SickCity, making it more accurate, testing it against real health data for cities
- improving DIYtraffic: giving it a front-end, adding new data sources, making it easier for people to set it up in their city
- getting a Taxi Share app started: I think this idea is ripe, and I have an idea or two on how it could happen. will post more on that in Discussions.
- getting a Rideshare app spec'd out. a couple people have written to me and are interested in seeing this happen. would love to figure out what this app should be.
And of course anyone else is free to propose anything they want in the Discussions group, as I see is already happening. Love to see that!
Why? Because the costs of public health mandate it. Costs of basic health services are already too high, never mind adding new services to the mix. Meanwhile, mining data that is out on the web, ready to be mined, is so cheap as to be essentially free (it has cost us no money so far to build SickCity, just a few dollars out of pocket).
So, in order to grow, become better, and not break the government bank, public health will need to start considering smart, cost-effective alternatives for services, and they will eventually look to using openly accessible data, data of all sorts - including social network data.
The SickCity team, btw, now has a statistician on board, looking over the algorithm to see how we can make the service more accurate. Version 1 works well in a very rough sense - how well can we make version 2 work, with someone who actually knows this stuff?
DIYcity started off in October 2008 as a simple online community where people could talk about ways that they could use technology to make their cities work better. The idea was to get people talking about this together, trade ideas, discover best practices, and help stimulate change.
I think we have already succeeded in doing that, in a few short months.
But along the way, a bigger idea began to emerge. It has been implicit on the site for a while, but I've never actually spelled it out anywhere. I felt like I should do that now.
So, here now, as I see it, is the big challenge for DIYcity, the question we're all, aware or unaware, working on together:
Can we, collectively, come up with a complete set of tools that ordinary people everywhere can plug into to make their cities work better? Can we create, effectively, a version 1.0 of an operating system for a new, user-operated city? A city where information is open and flows easily from government offices to residents, from residents back to government, and from residents to other residents, to create a tight-knit information ecology that improves life in cities for all?
And can we, rather than talking about it, actually spur that transformation to happen within cities?
I want people to be able to come to DIYcity, look through an index of (open source) applications, find the ones that are set up for their city and use them, or else set them up for their city if they aren't configured yet. One person should be able to come to the site, and with a little bit of energy activate a whole new service for his or her city.
That is the Do-It-Yourself City. That's what we're working towards.
How we get there exactly is less important to me than that we get there. Challenges, Discussions, whatever, are just tactics for the big goal, of assembling, or pointing to, this collection of tools that people can plug into anywhere to make their cities work, with or without the help of their local government.
And hopefully the local governments will get on board with this movement. I think they will, personally. I think they will have to, actually (that's a separate post). But a central idea of DIYcity is that we shouldn't wait around for the governments to give us tools for our cities. We can, and should, go out and build them ourselves, and let the governments get involved when they're ready.
That's where I see us going on DIYcity at this point, the Big Picture. Can we do this?
Some of the people who have worked on DIYcity projects so far have proposed a set of loose design principles for building DIYcity apps.
These are not hard, fast rules for building things with DIYcity, but are rather guidelines for helping developers think about how DIYcity-type applications should be built.
These guidelines are now online at http://diycity.org/diycity-design-principles
Please check them out! Comments and suggestions welcome.
Since we launched SickCity on March 10th, the site has spread quickly around the world. The tool allows users to activate the service for their own city from the sickcity.org website, and users have responded, creating a version of SickCity for more than 55 cities around the world as of this writing. (Many of these are still having data imported for them this very minute.)
Clearly it's a fascinating service to follow.
The equally important issue, of exactly how well it works as an alert system, is harder to determine at the moment. After all, it's impossible to get realtime disease data for cities (which is why people at DIYcity built SickCity, of course). The premise is sound though, and we're confident that over time, with enough refinement and addition of new data, this kind of detection will get better, it will grow, and maybe eventually become commonplace.
For now, SickCity should be looked at as a compelling first start at city-level, realtime disease detection. Which is, in a sense, a historical first, especially in that it works for multiple cities simultaneously. Imagine if John Snow had had access to this kind of data during the London Cholera outbreak of 1854. This kind of realtime analysis at the local level is only going to get better and better as tools improve. And we at DIYcity intend to be pushing that envelope as much as possible.
If you want to help the team working on the project to make SickCity better, write to us at email@example.com and we'll put you in touch. And if you want a version of SickCity in your city, go to the site and add it!
And congrats to the team that got it off the ground and continue to refine it.
The new DIYcity Challenge is now online in Discussions here:
Check it out.
Came across the site for BBC Backstage
"backstage.bbc.co.uk is the BBC's developer network to encourage innovation and support new talent. Content feeds are available for people to build with on a non-commercial basis."
Some prototypes that are leveraging these feeds:
Disruption alerts for UK train services by Twitter
BBC Programmes via Jabber
Infused News and Entertainment
Track Playing updates
The team who put together SickCity, which launched just three days ago, have already put out an upgraded version of it. This 1.1 version addresses a lot of UI problems that had been noted, makes the pages a bit friendlier on the eye, has a more accurate algorithm for measuring conversation about disease, and addresses a slew of other minor things as well.
Mostly though, in my opinion, it just looks awesome now. Something you would spend a lot more time looking at than the previous version.
God it will be great to get those maps actually working with data, huh?
Anyway, please check it out. Here are links straight to city pages, for those of you living in these areas:
New York: http://sickcity.org/USA/New%20York
Austin, TX: http://sickcity.org/USA/Austin
San Francisco: http://sickcity.org/USA/San%20Francisco
For those of you not living in those areas, there is a form on the home page of the site to add your city to the system - give it a try.
I'm very excited to announce the newest application by people here at DIYcity. The app is called SickCity, and it provides realtime detection for disease outbreak in cities.
How, you say?
It works by monitoring status messages on Twitter (and soon on Facebook) in cities around the world, tallying up disease keywords such as "flu", "fever", "food poisoning", "chicken pox" and so on. It then takes those tallies and creates a 30-day chart for each keyword in each city. This lets you see in one glance whether conversation about a particular disease is high, low, increasing, decreasing, or not changing. This, in turn, should give you a good idea when an outbreak is afoot.
Here's food for thought: with a budget of $0, we've created an app that may in fact do a reasonably good job at notifying people when there's a nasty outbreak happening in their immediate vicinity.
Is it perfect? No. Is it a prototype? Yes. Will it get better? Definitely.
I cannot say enough good things about the team that put it together. The DIYcity Challenge on this was issued less than a week ago, and immediately several followers of the site chimed in with ideas. Before two days had gone by, we had a rough prototype and a full roadmap, and were chugging toward the finish line. Special congrats to Paul Watson for his masterful prototyping and delivery of the final RoR code. And thanks to all the others for their contributions as well.
Please go check it out...
Well another week has come and gone, and though it has been fairly quiet here on the site itself for the past few days, there is a buzz of activity going on behind the scenes and off the lists. An absolute buzz! Hopefully that will result in something exciting manifesting next week for everyone to check out.
In the meantime: welcome to the new local groups in Waterford Ireland, Kinston North Carolina, and Berlin. Know anyone living in those areas? Tell em to join DIYcity!
Also, here is an article passed to me by fellow DIYcity'er Dave Pentecost:
ZDNet Australia writes that NSW state corporation RailCorp has threatened a Sydney software developer with legal action if he fails to withdraw a train timetable application that is currently the second-most-popular application in its category in Apple's App Store.
read full slashdot article here:
Enjoy the weekend, see you back here first thing Monday morning...
For those of you not listening in on the Discussions group, DIYcity Challenge #5: Outbreak! is now online there:
Back in the days of the railway, Winnipeg was Canada's hub. We were, and are, the center of the country. But what about now? Walk downtown and the signs of a stagnant economy is everywhere. Not to mention the feeling that our city lacks innovative thinking in the upper echelons.
If small business is the key economic driver of any urban area, how can we attract innovative small business to Winnipeg, and how can we encourage more Winnipegers to start them.
Y Combinator, an American incubator that provides small amounts of seed funding to startups. Its head honcho, Paul Graham, has put together an excellent article contemplating how any city could become the next hub for startups like Silicon Valley. Here it is:
There is so much going on on this site these days, and it's spread out over so many sections, that I'm trying to start writing week-in-review emails to point people to things they may have missed during the course of the week.
And this week was a big week, so I might as well get started now.
First of all - welcome to all of the local groups that are new this week. We have new groups for Mexico City, Amsterdam, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Curitiba, Campinas, Belo Horizonte, Singapore, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Louisville KY and Grand Rapids Michigan. Whew. We hope to see these groups becoming hotbeds of local DIY action and look forward to their contributions to the central discussions as well. If you know people in those cities, tell 'em to sign up for their local DIYcity group!
Second, we launched DIYtraffic to a nice, loud and positive reception on blogs and on Twitter. As of now we have seven instances of the app running in different cities, with plans being made for the app to be launched in London and elsewhere. If you want to add your two cents on making that package better, you can do so here.
Lastly, there was the beginnings of a good discussion on things you could do to make biking in cities easier, which sort of got sidetracked midweek by the launch of DIYtraffic. Maybe we'll pick back up on that for a day or two next week and see if we come away with anything good before we move on.
Next week we hope to make more big advances in the whole DIYcity idea. This is getting fun as it picks up steam.
See you all then...
If you look at the wiki page where people add links to the instances of DIYtraffic that they've set up for their own area, you will see that the app is now running in Chicago, Fairfax VA, Portland OR, Rockville MD, San Francisco, and Washington DC.
Not bad, but can we go further? How many local instances of DIYtraffic can we get up and running today?
Instructions for installation are here: http://diycity.org/wiki/index.php?title=DIYtraffic_-_Instructions_for_In... and installation is a pretty quick and painless affair. Dan Greenblatt, who spearheaded the development effort, has also offered to configure our version of the app to run additional cities if anyone wants, so if you want a DIYtraffic in your town but don't have a server to put it on, write to him at dan dot greenblatt at gmail dot com and he'll do it for you.
If you do launch a DIYtraffic, be sure to 1) point back to this page explaining it, 2) tell people what it is in the bio area and 3) tweet about it to spread the word.
BTW, DIYtraffic works just fine for cities outside of the U.S., if you give it an RSS feed for local traffic updates. The feed we're currently using, from Yahoo, is only for the U.S. unfortunately (why is that??).
I'm excited to announce that DIYcity's first app, DIYtraffic, is now live and running for 3 cities, and the source code is available for download by anyone who wants to set it up for other cities.
The app was built to be easily configurable for any city in the U.S (or any city in the world, provided there's an RSS feed for traffic updates to be found).
This beta version of the app, when configured, does the following:
- posts all traffic incidents for the city in question to a Twitter feed, allowing users to receive these traffic alerts as SMS messages to their phone if they want
- accepts queries from followers on specific streets, and returns traffic info for just that street
- accepts user-generated traffic alerts for the city and reposts those to the feed.
There are lots of other useful things it could do as well, but we figured this was a good start.
DIYtraffic emerged out of a discussion held on the site about using Twitter to alert people to traffic problems. As the first app created here, it's a proof of concept for the idea of DIYcity as a place where conversation about applications can turn into actual applications, able to be used by anyone. As exciting as it is to see DIYtraffic launch, it is doubly so to see that proof of concept happen.
Anyway, check out the full explanation, with running examples, links to the source code, and instructions on how to use it here: http://diycity.org/diytraffic-realtime-traffic-alerts
And follow the DIYtraffic feed in your town!
Kudos to Dan Greenblatt for pushing this through and making it happen.
For those of you not subscribed to the Discussions group, DIYcity Challenge #4 is now online there. http://diycity.org/challenge/diycity-challenge-4-bikes
Apologies for the radio silence over the past week, we've been immersed in server upgrades and putting finishing touches on DIYtraffic, which is ready to launch as soon as it has a home. We will now resume with our regularly scheduled programming.
While we were gone, DIY Cincinnati had some interesting posts on DIY things they could do for their city. And they're planning a meetup, too. Check it out!
There are some changes taking place on DIYcity this week, which are indicative of the way the site/organization is going, so we wanted to share with you:
• We're moving the site to a new server, one that gives us control over config files and such. This will happen later in the week, and will allow us to easily run our own apps on the site. This is a big step toward DIYcity becoming a place that actually launches and runs applications that reinvent cities, rather than just being a place for people to talk about these things.
• We're setting up a DIYcity code repository on GitHub. This will allow code for our apps to be accessed, shared, forked, and built on by anyone, easily. This too is a big step toward becoming the site we want DIYcity to be.
Once those two pieces are in place, the runway will be clear for takeoff.
And speaking of taking off, the First DIYcity Project is having finishing touches put on it by the awesome team of people who volunteered to make it happen. Hopefully if the right elements combine, we will have something to show early next week.
In the meantime, if you haven't already, brush up on last week's interesting discussions about Cooperative Bike Shares, and the prospect of setting up a test in Portland, as well as Distributed Bus Pingers. More good conversations to come this week...
Last week was a busy week behind the scenes at DIYcity, and hence a slow week on the site itself, so I wanted to give a quick update on the site for all.
First, you may have noticed that the right nav has changed a bit. We now have links to a centralized "Challenges" page, a centralized "Projects" page and a centralized "Specs" page (as well as a centralized "releases" page which isn't active yet). This is all reflective of the way in which DIYcity is evolving from a place where random conversations happen and go nowhere, to a place where focused conversations happen and lead to actual product that communities can use. This is pretty exciting, but it's also still pretty early in this evolution, so there's not a whole lot to look at yet there. I'll post more on this idea before too long.
Then, lots of work was done last week on the first DIYcity project, outlined here, and the people involved are getting very close to a 1.0 release. Exciting. Hopefully more news on that this week.
Next, a lot of what has been happening with this 1.0 project has really just involved nailing down the basic design philosophy that should guide DIYcity development - questions like "should this app live on one central server for every community, or should communities all set it up individually on their own servers?" It's an interesting discussion and I'd like everyone who wants to chime in on it. I'll post what we've got to the wiki in a bit and invite additions/subtractions/comments. Getting to a good, common understanding of a design philosophy seems like a big step toward getting DIYcity going as a real place for development and change.
Lastly, you may have noticed a lot of test emails coming in over the weekend. We're still trying to wrangle with that mysql/php bug that happens whenever someone posts to a group with lots of members. No solutions yet, short of moving to a dedicated server. Remember for now: if you post a new message to the site and see garbled mysql errors, DON'T repost - your post went through just fine.
Okay, now on with the show!
Transit Television Network, a subsidiary of Torstar (owner of Canada's biggest daily newspaper), has filed for bakruptcy.
In Milwaukee and other cities where it set up on buses, TTV seems universally loathed for reasons mentioned by this LA blogger: http://metroriderla.com/2006/12/03/transit-tv-how-we-hate-thee/
Worst of all, TTV has been an infection in public space. As a local rider puts it, TTV content screams one message over and over: "You are a Bus Rider; You are a Loser. This xxxxxx will save you from your misery. $19.95 and operators are standing by." Or a free PC by giving up your phone number and checking account number. Or the scams that came to us with the SAME actor, different names for the scams, but just call 800 xxx xxxx and your life will be turned around -- $500,000 from your home in one month. No one in their right minds would call such a number but that shouting sent a clear coherent message: You Are A Loser. And that message has pervaded bus service for the last decade.
My question: is there any way the existing hardware might be repurposed by creative groups to have a more publicly edifying message?
We've got a spec on the First DIYcity Project all ready to go, and are planning a launch as soon as some light development is done on it. Now we need a developer who can help us get to the finish line.
If you're a developer, please consider being that person.
It's a very short and contained project, not a lot of work. Could be easily done in your spare time.
See spec here.
All code written will be open source and will live on DIYcity's servers.
Anyone lending a hand will be credited on the app with your name and a URL.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details if you're interested.
great article about the CEO of Limewire, who now wants to open source peer-to-peer software to tackle problems of urban planning.
very relevant to the goals of this group. talks about the top-down versus ground-up approach....
When we put out a call for help for the First DIYcity Project, DIY Chicago member Dan Greenblatt wrote in and said he'd like to help with conception and project wrangling. So over the past week Dan and I have been trading emails on what shape this project should take. Dan has had some great ideas, we've had input from the Hashtags.org folks and a few others, and together we came up with an idea which Dan put into an initial spec. That spec is now in the wiki if anyone cares to take a look. Feedback is welcome. (Please comment here, rather than in the wiki, to make discussion easier.)
A few notes:
- We decided to keep the initial product very simple and easy to execute, with an eye toward addressing more complicated stuff in future releases. We figure it's best to get something up and out the door, then add on to it, rather than getting bogged down with complexity right off the bat.
- You may notice references to "DIYcity design principles" in the doc. These emerged out of a conversation Dan and I had about this app, along with a realization that DIYcity *ought* to have design principles, even perhaps needs them as guidelines for future development. I'll post what we came up with as far as principles in a separate thread, and anyone who is interested can comment and help shape that document.
We are starting work on the first DIYcity project, and we need your help in building it.
It will be an app along the lines of the discussion on TrafficTweet that, when built, will give residents of local areas updates to their mobile phones about traffic problems around them.
The app will be open source and will be built in such a way that it can be easily adapted to work for any city or town in the U.S. (and if possible outside the U.S. as well).
- 1 - 2 web developers, well-versed in all of the things web developers should be well-versed in these days, specifically working with RSS and APIs.
- a UI designer
- a project wrangler
This is entirely a volunteer project.
Everyone who participates will be credited on the work.
If you'd like to help, write to email@example.com.
Please forward this to anyone who might be interested.
UPDATE 2/4: This app has been designed and spec'd (see spec here) and is now in development. Release will be posted to the Main Group.
It struck me several days ago that a valuable exercise for DIYcity at this stage might be to try to map out the possible issues we could address, correlated with the different tactics at our disposal for addressing them.
By doing this, we could begin to create a "universe of possibilities" for DIYcity, as well as start to see where the low-hanging fruit is for first efforts.
To get started, everyone at the NYC meetup on Wednesday night answered two questions:
- What are some issues in NYC that DIYcity might be able to address?
- What are the tools at our disposal for addressing these issues?
What we came up with was by no means an exhaustive list, but it was a tiny first step towards building that map. Or at least it was a good document for starting a conversation about that map.
See notes on the answers people gave to those questions on the DIYcity wiki.
If you correlated the items in the first list with items in the second list (as we did in a very limited fashion on Wed), you would start to see a map emerge of possibilities for DIYcity - at least as they relate to New York City, and at least as they relate to this very minute, with our limited grasp of the idea of a DIYcity.
The next step then would be to pick the low-hanging fruit and develop some apps based on those things -- which is where we should consider going next.
One thing that came out of last night's meetup in NYC was the agreement that there should be a set of common tags by which everyone can flag content around the web that relates to DIYcity.
Good idea, of course.
So from now on, if you are tagging something up in delicious, or flickr, or whatever you use, and it relates to DIYcity, tag it with 'diycity'. If you're marking up a Twitter tweet, use the hashtag #diycity.
And if it relates specifically to DIY NYC, mark it as diynyc. If it relates to DIY Melbourne, mark it as diymelbourne. Etc etc etc.
In that way, DIYcity can start to escape the confines of the website.
The MetLife Foundation and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation are partnering for the eighth year to recognize, sustain, and share the work of innovative partnerships between community groups and police that promote neighborhood safety and revitalization.
Awardees will receive cash grants ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 each. Case studies about award-winning partnerships will be disseminated throughout the community development and law enforcement industries. Previous winners have used award money to pay for special patrols, trainings, and equipment for officers.
Grants will be awarded in two categories. Neighborhood Revitalization Awards (six grants of $15,000 to $25,000 each) celebrate exemplary collaboration between community groups and police that result in crime reduction as well as economic development activity, including real estate development, business attraction, and job growth. Special Strategy Awards (six awards of $15,000 each) will be given to community and police partners that have achieved significant accomplishments in applied technology, aesthetics and greenspace improvement, diversity, inclusion and integration, drug market disruption, gang prevention and youth safety, or seniors and safety.
Further information and a link to the full Request for Proposals is available at the LISC Web site.
Thanks to all who came out last night to the first DIYcity meetup in NYC. It was a huge success, esp for a first meetup. Attendance was high, people seemed very smart about the subject, and everyone came prepared to participate.
We focused the evening on building out a general framework for DIYcity in New York, something we could then continue build on in the future. Discussion topics included:
- What does DIYcity mean anyway? What are the common elements that identify a service, tool, etc as being a DIYcity thing?
- What are the possibilities for DIYcity applications? What it is possible to do with this approach to city systems?
- What are some specific things we could do in NYC to address issues in the city in a DIYcity way?
- Where to start with these ideas? What's next?
I will post notes from the meeting to the new wiki (thanks Sean) when I get them. Hopefully they can form a basis for future conversations.
Very interested to hear a report from SF on how the meetup went there...
The DIYcity Wiki is now up and running at diycity.org/wiki. Dig in and add to the conversation!
From Matt Lane on the Open Government Group
I have recently put up a post on *In Development* called "When State servants use social media":
It links to our draft guidance on "Social media monitoring and interaction" for New Zealand government agencies and State servants which is open for comment.
If you want to throw together a last-minute meetup in your city to coincide with the ones happening tomorrow in NYC and SF, contact us and we'll help you get started, giving you a set of questions and some exercises to work from to give the evening some form.
You don't need lots and lots of people to make a DIYcity meetup happen. Just getting a few people together to talk about what the potential is for DIYcity-type stuff in your area would be great. Can happen in a living room or school or wherever.
Then you can post your results to the site the next day, under your area, for all to see and comment on and use. And then you've made your contribution to the idea and the movement.
Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Joshua Tauberer sent a message to the members of oGosh: Open Government Open Source Hacking.
from oGosh: Open Government Open Source Hacking--
Subject: Sunlight launches Apps for America with $15,000 prize
Hello civic hackers! The OGOSH! group has been quiet lately (sorry, my bad), but here's an excuse to write you all and remind you that this Facebook group still exists.
The Sunlight Foundation --- the financial bedrock of many government transparency projects lately --- is holding a contest: "Apps for America is Sunlight's annual development contest! Prizes go to developers who can use data from Sunlight and our partners that makes Congress more accountable, interactive and transparent. "
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http://razor.occams.info / govtrack.us
Local city groups are something that have, up until now, been somewhat overlooked on DIYcity. But they feature very largely in our plans for the future. And so this week, with the upcoming meetups for locals in NYC and SF, we thought it would be good to start discussions on the site at the local level.
A question that will probably come up at each of the meetups is: what is the most pressing issue in this city currently that can/should be addressed by DIYcity?
We'd love to see that discussion happen this week in each one of the cities represented on the site as well. It seems like a good place to start for local discussions, and even if you've got one or two people in your local group, it's still a good conversation starter.
I'll post this question to the individual local groups later on today when I get a moment. Looking forward to seeing what comes out of it.
A combined total of 116 people so far are signed up as either attending or interested in attending the DIYcity meetups in NY and SF next Wednesday.
Anyone want to help out organizing the meetings in either place?
And anyone from other cities want to join in?
Does anyone know what the status is on an api from the NY MTA? Thought there was some discussion here a while back about that being forthcoming.
When you submit a new thread to DIYcity right now, you will see a bunch of mysql errors on the submit page.
We've been trying to resolve the issue, but it actually lies with our webhosts - they are timing out the servers too quickly for the full database insert to occur, and this is a host-wide problem.
Just submit your post once.
Regardless of the error message, your post DID go through. You don't need to resubmit.
Will keep trying to fix it, but the only solution seems to be to switch hosting companies.
So it's been two months now since DIYcity started, and in that time I feel like the organization has grown so much that it has quickly outgrown the site, and even the original idea. And that's great, though it has been a bit hard to keep up at times.
When we first launched at the end of October, issuing weekly Challenges seemed like the way to go - get everyone pumped up about an idea, get them to build something, get them to submit it, and presto, you've got applications for people to use that make cities better. Seemed like a perfect vehicle for making change in cities.
The problem with this was it encouraged people to work on their own, and submit on their own. There was no group learning involved in the process, no growth, no improvement. It also presupposed that concepts were ready for building without being fully fleshed out and vetted -- and fleshing out and vetting have turned out to be critical steps in this whole process.
So Discussions seemed like a good remedy to that problem: something to get people to work together, think together, maybe even build together. And that worked really well. People have added a lot of intelligent insight to conversations on a variety of things, and it seems like we're collectively closer to great tools for making cities everywhere more effective.
But Discussions only worked up to a point - they got people talking, throwing ideas together, making them better. But nothing actually got built. And the whole point of DIYcity is to build things, get things out in the world, create change, make things better. Discussions got to a point where I personally felt it was futile to keep participating in new threads until old threads produced some tangible results. It was like we had created a backlog of product to build.
And that's where we are now.
So where do we go from here?
Well, out of all of this I now have a great idea for what DIYcity could be, and how that could be something really big, powerful and lasting, a real engine for change. But getting there is going to take some money, and a much better site than we currently have, among other things. So that's where we're going next. We're going to get some funds, we're going to turn it up a notch, and we're going to watch it take off for real.
It should be fun.
While we're getting there, Challenges, Discussions, and a multi-city meetup on January 14th are still happening. I've got a lot of ideas I want to throw out on the Discussions list, and will get to those after the new year.
Until then, have fun doing whatever it is you do at this time of year!
The newest DIYcity local group, in Melbourne, Australia, was created today and has this to say on their home page:
The Victorian Brumby Government just announced a $38 billion transport plan to revamp our state's dysfunctional and out-dated infrastructure network. How does this meet the needs of a growing population faced with the multi-dimensional challenges of peak oil, climate change and unprecedented water shortages? In Melbourne city the new Lord Mayor Robert Doyle is contemplating a move to re-open Swanston Street to traffic abandoning it's current status as a reasonably bike-friendly thoroughfare. This group welcomes your inspirational ideas to make Melbourne a clean green city that meets the needs of its wonderful mulitcultural, highly creative and awesome citizens. So let's get this party started!
Nicely put. Welcome, DIY Melbourne - looking forward to hearing interesting stuff from you all.
It's time for a meetup! And we finally have a date locked in. And that date is Wednesday, January 14th.
This is going to be a global meetup - we want to get as many cities as possible involved on that date, holding meetings of their own. It seems like there's a multiplier effect that could result from getting everyone working and thinking about this at the same time, in their respective local areas. We want to explore that as much as possible.
So far we have the San Francisco Group, the New York City Group and the Paris Group committed to holding meetings on that date.
If you belong to a group in another city (or if you'd like to start a new group in another city) and you want to also host a meetup on that date, let us know at diy-at-diycity-dot-org and we can all coordinate with one another to make this a really interesting and eventful thing.
And if you live in one of the areas that will be participating in the January 14th meetup and want to attend, just check on that area's DIYcity page for details on how to do this. All are welcome to participate.
More details to come.
A response from Richard Pauli to DIYcity Challenge #2. Richard writes:
I have been promoting this ridesharing idea - described on http://ithumb.org/
I have not shared it widely enough, but everyone who hears it, gets it and knows it would work. Personally, I think it is both technically possible and inevitable because this is the type of service any user would want - fast and trusted.
Thanks for holding this challenge... and thanks for considering this notion.
Richard has a lengthy write-up of this ridesharing proposal at http://ithumb.org, which you should check out for the full play-by-play. Here's the basic breakdown:
Proposed Domain monikers: WiRide.com & iThumb.org
For Pedestrians: Use Your wireless GPS/WiFi device to rideshare with a selected Driver on your route.
For Drivers: Use Your GPS/WiFi car based internet connection to rideshare with the closest passenger.
Requirements: a WiRide account, a GPS/WiFi location mode enabled wireless device - (And Web access with application)
1. Register with WiRide or iThumb - trusted and secure required (photo, registration, fingerprint, etc)
2. Logon and tell us where you are going or Where you want to go.
3. See on your device a map of your route, a list of fellow travelers on your route and time that you can connect with them.
4. You each select your ride / rider
5. You each see a meet up location and time
6. You each verify identities before connecting.
8. End ride and your transit is logged. Your government may wish to reward you for helping with transit.
Richard adds: Real-time, trusted ridesharing using GPS/WiFi location tracking is inevitable.
DIYcity Challenge #2: Conceive of a grassroots ridesharing system that can overcome the problems inherent in ridesharing and achieve critical mass.
Ridesharing sounds like such a great idea - everyone teaming up, riding 2, 3 or 4 to a car to get where they're going together. Fewer cars on the road, less CO2 created, everyone happy. But the reality is that lots of ridesharing systems have been designed but none have really caught on to any appreciable amount.
Why is this? There are lots of reasons. Flexibility, reliability, safety, critical mass challenges and more all conspire to prevent rideshare systems from taking off.
Here on DIYcity we've already had a pretty good discussion on building a ridesharing app that works. But nobody has nailed it just right yet. Can you?
Submit your idea for the killer ridesharing app to email@example.com.
You don't actually have to build anything for this Challenge, just write a concise proposal and it will be posted to the site.
If you do actually build something then wow, that's really cool, please submit it here.
David Brooks has an excellent column in today's NYT calling for Obama's infrastructure project to include a dramatic, innovative rethink of U.S. urban living patterns. Brooks says:
This kind of stimulus would be consistent with Obama’s campaign, which was all about bringing Americans together in new ways. It would help maintain the social capital that’s about to be decimated by the economic downturn.
But alas, there’s no evidence so far that the Obama infrastructure plan is attached to any larger social vision. In fact, there is a real danger that the plan will retard innovation and entrench the past.
I wonder - what role could a community like DIYcity play in achieving that innovation? In helping to define the vision for that innovation? In energizing people to make that innovation happen in their communities on their own, with or without the aid and assistance of government offices?