Today we announce a new un-conference focused on creating a truly participatory democracy.
June 27th and 28th - New York City
Learn more and register now at ParticipationCamp.org
About Participation Camp
Participatory government is a powerful ideal, but changing the system will not be easy. In the spirit of Transparency Camp, we're calling on open government advocates from all walks - including government officials - to come together and share their knowledge and strategies. PCamp09 will include featured speakers, participant-driven workshops, and hands-on projects.
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More Open Gov Events
Wednesday, June 3rd - Summer of Gov Mixer: Join us for wine and cheese, followed by a series of presentations on new open gov projects. A good way to meet people in the movement and get involved. www.summerofgov.com
Friday, June 5th - Capitol Camp: Albany throws open its doors for an open gov unconference, and invites you to help them improve your state goverment. www.capitolcamp.org
Participation Camp is Sponsored by
Mudball - Collaboration Media, Community Building - mudball.net
New Work City - Coworking New York Style - nwcny.com
I'd like to know if there is some web downloadable open source software or free service allowing to manage a barter system.
Here in my city we have a place where periodically people meet to exchange stuff.
A web service where everyone can show the stuff who's going to bring on the programmed meeting, and users can say they're interested in something or another, specifying what they'll offer in exchange for that, and eventually receiving answers like "that will be ok", or "no way man".
Not a system to "place" a real order, just a system to show the stuff you want to give out, and attract potential users interested in it. The "real thing" is always the periodic live meeting.
I wonder if something ready could be used for this, supporting photos, tags, votes, etc.
The letter to New York City's Mayor Bloomberg regarding the creation of an Open 311 System in the City was delivered this morning. This letter was the product of a conversation that happened here on DIYcity a few weeks ago, and the thoughts and ideas that emerged from that. I've posted the full letter in the DIY New York City group - please check it out.
If anyone in other cities wants to re-use this letter, with appropriate alterations, to address their own city governments, please feel free. It should be considered an open document and a template for future use.
A few weeks ago we had a discussion about creating an Open 311 System for New York City. Based on that conversation, I wrote up a short letter to Mayor Bloomberg, which I just faxed to him this morning. The letter is also being delivered via a few other channels, to ensure a better chance of reception.
Here is the letter I sent him, the result of everyone's conversation here on the site.
The second section, "What Can Be Built on an Open 311 System" is a bit brief due to space limitations. If anyone wants to add ideas in the comments below as to other things that could be done with an Open 311, that would be a great addition to the document.
20 Jay St, Ste 1019
Brooklyn, NY 11201
May 28, 2009
Re: An Open 311 System for the City of New York
The Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg
Mayor of New York City
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mayor Bloomberg:
Under your leadership, the City's 311 System has grown into an invaluable civic service that has accumulated vast amounts of actionable data about all kinds of topics residents of New York City care deeply about. Now is the time to transform 311 into a tool of even greater value, for use by elected officials, policy makers, local leaders, and everyday New Yorkers by allowing any and all software developers to freely access, work with and build web applications based on the data contained in the system. Such a transformation can be realized by implementing a simple Open 311 System for the City of New York.
The vision for Open 311 is a system which would allow the public to build applications that will transform the City's 311 data into all kinds of useful tools and information flows that can be used by government officials and citizens alike. We see Open 311 as the next frontier of transparency, accountability and civic engagement between local government and citizens. With a new political attitude toward openness at the federal level and a large creative class of technologically savvy City residents, your administration is poised to lead the country in this effort at the local level. Below is a brief description of Open 311, examples of what could be created and a description of some of the benefits of Open 311.
What is Open 311
“Open 311” is the term given to providing open, free API access to the City’s existing 311 System.
An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a web protocol that gives programmers anywhere access to data on a web server in order to build custom applications using that data. Businesses that operate on the web commonly use APIs to facilitate and encourage interaction with their core data. By allowing anyone to build applications that make use of their data, they increase the number of ways in which the public can access that data. By doing this, they increase the number of people who actually use that data, as well as the variety of situations in which they will do so. And by encouraging more people to use their data, in more situations, they make that data more valuable – both to themselves and to the public at large.
Open 311 applies this same principle to the City’s non-emergency interface for municipal services. In essence, an Open 311 API will allow third party users to write web applications that do two things remotely and programmatically: 1) get all service requests from the 311 system, or some specified subset of service requests and 2) submit new service requests to the 311 system.
Such an API will have the effect of opening the current 311 service to all who wish to build on top of it, turning 311 from a closed system to an open platform, able to be extended and improved upon by others in whatever way they see fit. This extension and improvement, and the increase in public interaction with the 311 data that will result from it, are core to the vision of an Open 311 System and the value it could provide for the City of New York.
What Can Be Built on an Open 311 System - Some Examples
The number of useful, innovative applications that could be built with an Open 311 System in New York City is practically endless, limited only by the imagination of the public and the online tools they have to work with. Some examples of possible tools built on top of an Open 311 API include:
These applications would be developed entirely by third parties working independently from the city, for their own purposes. As such, they would not require oversight or input from the city to develop or maintain.
Benefits of an Open 311 System to the City of New York
The benefits of such an open platform are several:
Meeting with DIYcity
DIYcity is a community of technologically adept urbanists focused on improving cities around the world. The group has over 600 members globally, with 150 in New York City. I speak on behalf of the members of DIYcity when I say we have teams of people ready, willing and able to assist the City with this effort--and to ensure its success once Open 311 is launched. With this in mind, I am asking for the opportunity to have a small group of DIYCity representatives meet with key members of your staff to discuss the possibilities and practical applications that Open 311 would generate. By adopting and promoting an Open 311 system now, the City can bring 311 into a new and exponentially more productive era, continuing to offer its residents leading-edge service at little additional cost above the current system.
Please have your staff contact me to discuss this further.
Founder of DIYcity
Brooklyn, New York
This document is the result of an ongoing discussion held on DIYcity.org about creating an Open 311 for New York City. For more details on Open 311 and the possibilities and benefits it offers, refer to the discussion, here: http://diycity.org/discussions/calling-open-311-nyc.
Contributors to this document include: John Geraci, Anthony Townsend, Paul Watson, Marissa Gregory, Geddes Munson, Antti Poikola, Liz Barry, Jason Liszkiewicz, Dmitry Kachaev and Nick Grossman.
I'm back from San Jose, where I presented DIYcity to a room of mapping and GIS professionals and enthusiasts at O'Reilly Where 2.0 last week (photo here). The presentation was well-received, with lots of people approaching me with good ideas and feedback afterwards. (One idea I liked: DIYcity should build apps that are *more* local, that people implement at the neighborhood level, not the city level. The reasoning was that neighborhoods are the basic cellular unit of community, easier to get adoption, and then easier to replicate from neighborhood to neighborhood).
Now since I've been back I've been working on the 311 document that everyone submitted ideas on a few weeks ago. We should have something good on that soon, and I'll let you know as soon as we do.
Also today SickCity is featured in the Wall Street Journal, in a story titled "Health Data Proves Contagious On Social Media". If you have a subscription, see it here. If not, you can see a version of it on MarketWatch here.
BTW, the media story about SickCity currently is how we got trounced by all of the bad data from the swine flu epidemic, and how we are learning from that. But in fact the site itself seems to be working great these days - very low noise, very good signal. We're making a few more tweaks to it, and at that point I wouldn't put it past SickCity to actually pick up on a flu outbreak in a city in real time if one occurred. So I think the swine flu was good for SickCity all in all, and I think it's time for a new storyline about it.
On a more general level, I feel like SickCity definitely proves the central premise of DIYcity, namely that ordinary people working with freely-available data can build tools that can make their cities work better - and not just marginally better, but radically better. What else can we do in this regard? A lot I think.
But mostly on my mind right now is how to take DIYcity to the next level. It is clear to me and to everyone I talk to that it's ready to go there, and it's got to go there. The question is just where "there" is exactly and how to get there. Any silence from me on the site these days is really just due to that question swimming around in my head. Rather than creating lots of new activity on the site, I would rather push it to a new level and then create that activity. I've been having lots of very good chats with people on how to do this, people like Fred Wilson of USV, several notable people and groups out west, and friends here in NYC. I'm getting a good picture in my mind now of where to take this. It's not 100% clear yet, but I feel like all it needs is about 3 espressos, a notepad, and a spare hour to get me there.
Hopefully I'll get a window for that to happen soon, make a plan and have something to report on!
If you have a moment to read and respond to this blog post at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, I would appreciate it. Part of the difficulty in getting open gov data is raising it to awareness as a priority.
Milwaukee County mapping site using copyrighted data
By Ben Poston of the Journal Sentinel
May. 26, 2009
Just as the federal government begins to provide data in Web developer-friendly formats, we're organizing Apps for America 2: The Data.gov Challenge to demonstrate that when government makes data available, it makes itself more accountable and creates more trust and opportunity in its actions. The contest submissions will also show the creativity of developers in designing compelling applications that provide easy access and understanding for the public, while also showing how open data can save the government tens of millions of dollars by engaging the development community in application development at far cheaper rates than traditional government contractors.
This is an excerpt of an email from Ken, a friend who does term extraction and text analysis professionally, in regards to doing text analysis on SickCity tweets to weed out the signal from the noise.
In response to my inquiry for URLs of places to read up on this, Ken writes:
It's a bit of an art, there is no single recipe for it. Ok, here are some details...
One way to go is to use a package that automatically does all the massaging work, for example MALLET. It's a nice package with a few good algorithms, and it should get you started quickly. Only trouble is that it doesn't have the one of the most powerful algorithms, SVMs.
Most packages require that you do the massaging yourself. Places to read more:
* The LingPipe website has a useful tutorial on text classification
* A few books are helpful, e.g., "Web Data Mining" by Liu, Fundamentals of NLP by Manning and Schutze
* I think there are a couple of free tutorials on SVMs for text classification on the web. One of the libraries I used (LIBSVM) had a decent tutorial.
Roughly, text preprocessing involves:
- Begin with a set of positive and negative text examples
- For each individual text, filter out punctuation/numbers/most symbols, and tokenize into single words
- Filter out stopwords (frequent words like 'the', 'and', etc)
- Count the frequency of every word in the corpus, and filter out highly infrequent words
- Convert each text into a sparse vector of numbers. It's generally a list of int:float pairs, where the first number is the index for a particular term, and the second is the weighted frequency of that term in the document. For term weighting, I usually use something like TF-IDF (you can read more about that on the web).
- Every machine learning package has a slightly different input format.
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: