A few hours ago, Vancouver's city government posted the agenda to a council meeting next week in which this motion will be read:
MOTION ON NOTICE
Open Data, Open Standards and Open Source...
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.
For those of you who don't like reading through long blog posts for salient details, here is that last post in bullet points:
• We're trying out a new experiment in which people on the site will work together building open source civic software, then sell versions of those products as iPhone apps.
• The money from the sales of those apps will go back to the builders of the product.
• The underlying code will remain open source i.e. reusable, able to be built on, or distributed as people see fit.
• Nothing else about the site is going to change.
• We will start off this experiment with the two apps we've already got in production, DIYtraffic and SickCity, and maybe also on a third, new project.
• If these trials seem interesting to people and get product built, we will roll it out further.
• We'll begin next week.
Over and out!
DIYcity launched a little over six months ago, as a place for people to reinvent their cities with technology. The idea was not to simply create a place where people would talk about what you could do with technology, but to make a place where people actually build that technology, launch it, and give it to the world to use.
In that six months the site has grown more than I expected, and in ways I wouldn't have guessed. Yet for its relative success, it has yet to become a place busy with product development and launches. In its half year of existence, DIYcity has launched just two projects, both still in v1 as of now. At that rate, the challenge posed on the home page, can we build the Do-It-Yourself City, is a long way from being satisfied.
This needs to go faster. I want to see a thousand DIYcity projects launched, not two.
Having worked for a few months with the people who are doing DIYtraffic and SickCity, I've gotten to see the problem with developing all of this do-good, open source civic software: it's that there is no payback for it. People love the idea of it, they love reading about it, they love thinking about it, they even love working on it. But in the end, it just doesn't make sense to keep slaving away at it, at the level required to build products that actually make a difference in people's lives. Especially when the people working on those projects are barely making ends meet with their regular, paying jobs. Or when those people are getting laid off from work and having to move to other cities in search of new work. In the face of all that, it doesn't make a lot of sense to keep putting in the hard work on a project that only satisfies your urge to do something for the public good. There has to be more reward in it than that. And there should be more reward in it.
That's why I think if this whole thing is going to work, it's got to pay. It has to pay YOU, the person who (ostensibly) gives your valuable time to the project. We have to complete the circuit, create a feedback loop for people.
So with that in mind, we're trying a little experiment here on DIYcity. We're going to build open source code together in ad hoc groups (like we've been doing), make it free and open to all, BUT, we're then going to build iPhone apps on top of that code, sell those apps for money, and distribute that money back to the people who built the code in the first place, dividing it up in a way that is fair to all.
We're going to pay you to help reinvent your city.
Well, we're not going to pay you, the market's going to pay you. Hopefully it will pay you a lot, and keep paying you.
To make this work, I'm setting up an llc this week through which we can channel the proceeds and distribute them to people. Once that is set up, we'll be out the gate and running.
In the meantime, I'll be starting a few discussions about the details, and I'd love people's feedback on them, to hone this idea and give it a better chance for success.
This is an experiment. There will be bumps along the way, which we'll get smoothed out as quickly as possible. But I think this can work, and produce some very good, exciting results. If it does, we'll roll it out further.
And maybe then one thousand DIYcity projects wont be so far off.
You're invited to try out fixmystreet.ca:
The site allows people to file problem reports on things in their
neighbourhood they’d like to see fixed: potholes, bad lighting, or
unsafe pathways. People can browse reports that have been filed, and subscribe to reports they’d like to see updates on. The site is modeled on MySociety’s FixMyStreet.com, which was adapted for Canada by Chris Taggart of OpenOttawa.
FixMyStreet.ca is designed to help both the city and its citizens.
Providing the ability to browse and subscribe to problems that have been reported avoids having many people report the same issue individually, meaning less work for city call centres. Keeping public records of when reports were filed, and when they were fixed, gives citizens access to richer information about their community and municipal council.
The code is open source, and is available for download here:
VisibleGovernment.ca Executive Director
Sometimes, being virtually connected isn't enough. Sometimes you have to show up in meatspace. Digital democracy fans, your presence is invited/welcomed/needed tomorrow Thursday May 7, 11:15am, downtown Manhattan at 250 Broadway, 14th Floor Hearing Room or up in Albany at The Capitol Building, Room 328, for the launch of the new New York State Senate website, nysenate.gov.
Here's the announcement, from their communications folks:
Welcome to YOUR New York SENATE web site.
Though we live in the 21st century, most government bodies remain stuck in the technological dark ages.
Under the leadership and vision of Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, the New York State Senate is undertaking a series of reforms that will change the way New York State government operates. The goal of these reforms is to return government to the people of New York--Democrats and Republicans, Upstaters and Downstaters alike. Rules reform was the first step of many reform measures we are taking.
As a key milestone in this process, the new New York State Senate website, NYSENATE.GOV, will provide the technological underpinning of a new Senate dedicated to serving New Yorkers more effectively and openly.
We invite you to a special press conference to learn about the new website and the many other innovations the New York State Senate is undertaking by leveraging the latest communications technology. The presentation will include a walk-through of the website followed by a hands-on Q&A session.
The New York State Senate's new Twitter and Facebook accounts will also formally launch that same day. Follow @NYSenate for updates.
A live stream of the press conference will also be available on
http://www.nysenate.gov. Questions sent to @NYSenate via Twitter will be included in the live Q&A session.
Full disclosure: Along with Andrew Rasiej, I've been consulting with the NY Senate staff on this project.
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.
There's a much better app waiting to come out of DIYtraffic, and I want to make that app happen now.
If you want to join in and help out on the next version, drop me a line at geraci at gmail - com and let me know.