Hello DIYcity people, time for a quick update.
The big news with me this week is that I'm joining forces with innovation agency faberNovel, to head up their New York Operations. faberNovel is a group based in Paris, SF and Moscow (and now NYC) that does fantastic innovation work - conception, design and development of new ideas - for clients of all kinds. Much of their work is in city-oriented products and services: they build the apps for RATP, the company that runs the Paris subway and bus systems, they spearheaded one of the main responses to the RFP for Autolib, the Parisian car-sharing system, they open co-working spaces like pariSoma in SF. And much much more - there is a very long list of things they've done, which I wont go into here.
You can see my blog post about faberNovel and my new role here: http://bit.ly/mkRfDs
And you can see video of some of faberNovel's work at http://www.fabernovel.tv/ .
So what does this mean for me, what does it mean for you, and what does this mean for DIYcity?
For me it means that I'm going to get to focus on a lot of city challenges that I love to focus on, but with a lot more resources behind me than I've had in the past. This is going to be great. faberNovel seems like the perfect partner for me to continue to push ideas about cities and tech forward and make an impact, and I'm really excited to dig in.
For you it means... well, that depends on who you are exactly. But if you work in any kind of city organization (anywhere - not just in NYC) that is looking for innovative solutions to challenges (or even if you work in a non-city organization) then we should talk - there may be opportunities for us to work together on a different level than we have in the past with DIYcity. And that would be super.
And for DIYcity? Well, the interesting thing is that starting to work with faberNovel may actually allow me to push DIYcity forward more than I have in the past year. The two things feel very well aligned in such a way that putting a bit of energy into DIYcity may benefit my work with faberNovel, and vice versa. That's the kind of synergy that has been missing from DIYcity for me for a long time. So I'm interested to see where that goes.
And I'm interested in maximizing the synergy, for me and for you.
So - me, you, faberNovel and DIYcity. Should be interesting. Let's see just how interesting we can make it.
More to come, as always. If you're interested in hearing more about faberNovel, I'd love to talk - write me at john at johngeraci.com.
p.s. we came in second place for the FutureEverything award this year. That's not bad considering we were up against a project funded by the Knight Foundation and now part of Zynga (Macon Money, the project that won - kudos to them). I think with a tiny bit of focus and intent, we could win prizes like that in the future. It was a great opportunity regardless and I'm happy to have gotten as far as we did...
This week the FutureEverything Festival is being held in Manchester, UK. DIYcity has been selected as one of three finalists in the competition for the 2011 FutureEverything Award. The award is given every year for "outstanding achievement for innovation in art, society & technology" and for projects that "help to bring the future into the present."
While the festival's organizers have made me promise to keep quiet about whether or not DIYcity won the £10,000 first place prize until Thursday, they didn't say anything about not posting the video we made for the festival here before then. So here it is.
I think it shows the essence of DIYcity very well.
Tell me what you think.
p.s. I don't know how the video will format on this build of Drupal, so here's a youtube link, just in case it botches it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY9BQhaqKlI
Hello again everyone in the DIYcity community! Just a short note to say that DIYcity is one of three projects in the final round for the 2011 FutureEverything award.
FutureEverything.org explains it like so:
The Award recognises outstanding achievement for innovation in art, society & technology. It celebrates creative projects in any medium that offer a new and unique way to experience or see the world and help to bring the future into the present.
Voting on the final round is open to those who have participated in the festival in the past - as speakers, participants and delegates. If you're a part of the FutureEverything community, please go to the site and vote for us. We promise to do something big, fun and great with the award.
You can read more about it (and vote if you can) here: http://futureeverything.org/award/
Hi everyone at DIYcity! Thought it was time to check in here, after a while of silence. Here's a quick update on some things, on the site and in the space in general:
• Though new posts to the site have been few lately, traffic at DIYcity is going up-up-up. Up 20% this month over last month alone. And last month was up 20% over the month before. (If this was a startup, those would be the kinds of numbers that would make investors happy). Not sure why that could be, except that maybe civic reinvention is getting to be a hotter and hotter topic all the time. If that's so, then it's probably due to everyone on this list and all of the work you're doing - so congrats on that.
• There is a big, exciting un-conference coming up in a few weeks, called TransportationCamp. Put on by OpenPlans and Rockefeller Foundation, it is a free, weekend-long event where attendees will drill down on ideas for ways to make transportation work better. There is going to be one event in NYC and one in SF, held on different weekends. You should all sign up and come. (And I mean it - every one of you!) I'm an advisor, and I will be at the NYC event. Should be fun.
• For those of you in NYC, there is an OpenNY meeting tomorrow night (Feb 16) that is going to include discussions on Code for America, the Thai Open Govt Initiative and the National Building Museum's Intelligent Cities initiative. This looks like fun - check it out if you have the time.
• Lastly, true to my word I have been blogging a fair bit over on johngeraci.com, and here are a few recent posts that might interest people at DIYcity:
Actually come to think of it, all of the posts are really pretty applicable to DIYcity, but I'll stop there.
Okay, that's all for now. Might have some news for people in a bit. Or... might not.
Either way, more to come.
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.
Hi all - tt's been a few weeks since I've gotten around to posting at DIYcity, so I wanted to give a quick update.
One reason I've been posting less to DIYcity is that I started a blog on johngeraci.com (check it out here). I did this b/c I was getting the urge to write about things on DIYcity that weren't totally appropriate to the focus of this space. DIYcity has never been a ponderous place - it's always been a place for action, for building, and for discussion about these things. In the past few months I'd gotten away from that and wanted to restore that feeling here. So from now on, my thinky posts go on my blog, and DIYcity is for building, and talking about building. That means less content here but more focus and direction. I think that will be a good thing in the long run.
Next: the idea for the Apps for Everywhere contest continues to mature and take shape. It's making a lot more sense now, and we've got a few groups behind the scenes expressing interest in helping out in various ways. So that is looking increasingly do-able, interesting and valuable. I think we'll probably make a call on whether or not to green-light it over the holidays, and get on it quickly if it's a go.
Join the Apps for Everywhere Google Group if you want to chime in on the discussion that is giving shape to the idea.
Lastly, I wanted to call people's attention to a good post by dpk the other day about accessibility to police information in Milwaukee. It raises some questions that would be great to get into in more depth in a broader context at some point. Dpk posted it to Milwaukee, so I wanted to call others' attention to it as well.
That's all for now. The last few weeks of 2010 will be quiet here as I'll be up in Montreal (if anyone reading lives up there, get in touch with me, maybe we can get coffee and discuss the road ahead for DIY cities.)
More to come, as always...
When Bradley Tech, a troubled Milwaukee public high school, had to be locked down and receive massive police support to stop a fight involving gang members and kids from other schools, the most important issue is not about the school, the 18 arrests, the gangs, the fight, or the police response. It's about having no public information about the incident, which occurred on Nov. 30, until a statement was dragged out of the police department a week later, as rumors and questioned reached the press and political leaders.
Similar patterns of significant crimes that only come to light weeks after the fact have occurred since the Milwaukee Police Department's encrypted radio system, OpenSky, went into full production use early in 2010. The problem is that, post-OpenSky, MPD has left no way for the media or anyone else to follow what squads are doing, within reasonable parameters, as used to be the case. Going from police scanners to nearly nothing was a major disruption to public information access and crucial information flows in and outside of the city government.
Now, when a major incident fails to attract immediate media notice and no MPD statement is forthcoming, victims, witnesses or second and third-hand sources tend to generate inquiries and exposes a week or two later, when the media and politicians get involved. This has become a repetitive and counterproductive cycle for the entire metropolitan community.
There are technological solutions possible, but none have been proposed until today, when MPD suggested that the 911 dispatch webpage with brief call type summaries on the MPD website is all the press needs. Is it really MPD's position that this is all the press needs?
In other words, does a line of text that says "fight" with a location given like "4th and Bruce" do the job? This line of text appears only for a brief period of time and is not retrievable later. It appears somewhere within 5 screens of similar summaries. Is this really adequate public notice? Are journalists supposed to refresh their browsers all day watching these pages, instead of expecting a statement from MPS or MPD when many squads are called to stop a fight in a school and make arrests? On numerous occasions, the entire dispatch page has gone offline without warning, sometimes over long holiday weekends.
MPD claims that "All dispatched calls for police service are posted, with a 30-minute delay, on the Milwaukee Police Department Website under the Dispatched Calls for Police Service Tab." In fact the dispatch page itself actually says the calls are those made by 911 dispatch operators and the delay is 30-90 minutes. Previously it has been stated by MPD that some calls may be withheld longer in special cases, and 911 dispatch operators are not the only source of calls for service. Squads can be sent to locations by non-emergency operators and probably other channels, so it's unclear what is and is not being shown.
In the specific case of Bradley Tech on the 30th, was a 911 call made? Was a 911 call made that resulted in a dispatch? If a code red or lockdown is issued by a school, does this involve dispatch logs that go on the MPD website?
A national crime-mapping website, SpotCrime.com, harvests all data it is able to collect from MPD's dispatch page and has no entries pertaining to Bradley Tech for the 30th. Usually it is a reliable, permanent record of what has been posted by MPD, but even it is a very limited solution to the void of timely information about police activity.
This was first posted at the RJI News Collaboratory.Unfortunately, when I first asked these questions (in shorter form) on MPD's Facebook page, they were deleted. The situation has reached a point where I think there is motivation now to independently create applications to provide the data and accessibility needed to really function in the public interest. I am interested in hearing from anyone who is aware of similar situations in other cities, and how they were dealt with.
Hi DIYcity folks - I wanted to give a brief update on the Apps for Everywhere idea I've been kicking around (and am now kicking around with several other people).
First of all, the place to discuss it if you want is on the Apps for Everywhere Google Group. The group has eight members in it currently - still cozy, but with promise. Join now if you're interested.
Then, a few things that have come up in conversations on and off the group list:
- We've realized that a contest like this would be much more likely to succeed with some sort of on-the-ground network of developers in cities around the world. So we're taking names of people who are interested in promoting such a contest in their own city. So far we have Philadelphia and Milwaukee represented (and maybe Buenos Aires, though I have to confirm that). It's a start! Would you be interested in helping promote a contest like this to developers in your city? If so, get in touch with me, or join the group.
- Everyone is talking about data data data! A common refrain is that an apps contest can't happen without open data from the city. To that, two ideas have emerged in response:
One is that a really interesting global app contest could happen without open data, if it had the notion of data scraping built into it. That could be a very interesting contest: scrape data and build the best app for your (closed) city. And with new tools like Google Refine, and with Sunlight Foundation's new scraping initiative, this could really provide some interesting tools.
The second is that maybe a global contest about city-focused apps could in and of itself be a way to help cities everywhere to open up data. Or at least get the message out to cities around the world about open data and its value. And maybe that would be where the meat of the value was in such a contest? Too early to say, but it's an interesting, provocative idea that seems to touch a nerve with people.
• an apps contest for the whole world
• that tapped into local developer networks in cities to drive participation
• and that relied on state-of-the-art scraping where necessary
• but that also (and maybe more importantly) acted as a stimulus for cities everywhere to open up their data and make it available to developers to build on.
That's where the idea is, one week into the discussion.
I'm still absolutely not decided on doing this. I have several other ideas/discussions in this vein running at the same time that are competing for my attention. As I'm sure you do, too.
But it is definitely an interesting idea.
If anyone wants to make it an even better idea, please be my guest.
I'm thinking through this idea for an apps contest for everywhere a bit more, and would love to hear from people in cities outside of NYC, D.C. and Portland (where apps contests are already happening). That includes cities in the U.S. as well as cities outside of the U.S.
Would you be interested in seeing an apps contest in your city? In Amsterdam? In Paris? In Los Angeles? In Philadelphia?
If so, drop me a line at geraci at gmail dot com. I want to chat.
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...
Hello people out there in the DIYcity Main Group. I just posted an open question to the Discussions group that I would like you to weigh in on.
Please read it at http://diycity.org/discussions/question-anyone-and-everyone-weigh and give me your take.
You can reply to the Discussions thread, or write me directly (geraci at gmail dot com).
Please don't reply to the Main Group.
Some recent news about the perpetual crusade to shut down public access to the WI circuit court records online. How are other states dealing with this?
Don't block access to court records:
State Rep. Marlin Schneider Loses Re-Election – What Does This Mean for CCAP?
As we begin our journey toward this new idea for DIYcity in 2011, we want to start getting more use out of the existing site than we have been over the past year.
One easy way to do this is to begin posting about civic hacking & entrepreneurial events around the world to all of the many local groups on DIYcity.
People have started DIYcity groups for over 90 cities around the world, and many of these have a fair number of members in them, even outside of the U.S. London's group has 72 members, Sao Paulo has 41 members, Paris has 45, etc. There's a pretty big long tail of urban hackers and civic thinkers on our lists, and it's made up of people who are the most active, most vocal, most thoughtful about all of this stuff. And while we're not about to start organizing events of our own in those places, we'd love to be a channel for people around the world to get the word out about their own civic events. (And even enable some cross-pollination to occur between local organizers and events.)
So: wherever you live in the world, if you are planning any kind of civic reinvention-type event - a meetup, a hackathon, a conference, a class, etc - send the announcement to us and we'll pass it along to the appropriate group to help get word out.
Send your announcements to diy -at- diycity.org -- we'll get them on their way.
I started posting again to DIYcity back in September, just as an outlet for all sorts of thinking I was doing around the idea of Open Cities and where they're going. In doing that, one thing has led to another, and I've found myself in conversation with a friend and colleague about what DIYcity could add to the Open Cities space going into 2011.
What would a DIYcity reinvented for 2011 be?
When thinking about this, the question immediately arises: is there a place for an interesting, useful, even game-changing DIYcity today? The scene today is much different from even a year ago. We've got Open Plans doing their excellent thing, Code for America doing their excellent thing, a new Big Apps contest here in NYC, various startups like SeeClickFix doing their thing, and a new hackathon focused on city data practically every weekend.
So is there something DIYcity could contribute to this new ecosystem that would be exiting, energizing, additive?
As of a meeting yesterday, I think the answer is absolutely yes.
We have an idea for a new DIYcity which to me would be all of the above, and would also be a blast to work on.
And so we're starting to work on it - today in fact.
This is still in the drawing stages, the figuring-out-the-nuts-and-bolts stage, so I wont go into details yet. It's entirely possible that something could go awry before the idea ever sees the light of day.
But for now know this: we've got something new on the drawing board, I think it's pretty exciting, and I'm spending part of my busy week pushing it forward to make it a reality. It will guide my postings on DIYcity for the remainder of the year. Posting frequency may go up. The look and feel of the site may start changing at some point. And maybe, as we move toward January, we'll get closer to this idea and we can start to talk about it more concretely.
Hi to all at the Open Cities conference this week. Wish I could be there!
Two data points made their way onto my radar this week that got me thinking more about the do-it-yourself city and directions for this site/community.
First, Steve Jobs reframed the discussion about the merits of the Android versus the iPhone, calling it a question not of "open vs closed" platforms, but one of "integrated vs fragmented" platforms. This reversed the whole polarity of the debate. Suddenly Android was not the clear winner, the natural choice for all freedom-loving people. And iPhone was not the evil empire, curtailing users freedoms. Instead, Android was just a mess that required a lot of work on the part of its users just to get up and running, and iPhone was fighting the noble fight against chaos.
Interesting jiujitsu. And even though it was business rhetoric, there is an element of truth to what Jobs said.
The second data point came on Wednesday, when New York City's DOITT announced that the City was signing a huge contract with Microsoft to provide cloud computer services for its employees. The press release called it "a wide-ranging information technology agreement that will consolidate the City's dozens of individual license agreements into a single one and will provide more than 100,000 City employees with state-of-the-art computing power."
And there it was - in one week, Steve Jobs moved the conversation from "closed vs open" to "integrated vs fragmented", and New York City signaled its agreement with him by signing a contract with the biggest maker of closed, integrated systems in the world.
Big wins for closed and integrated.
But is open synonymous with fragmented? Is closed synonymous with integrated? Not necessarily.
Is there then a version of open that also achieves some semblance of integration? And is this possible in the realm of city infrastructure and services?
I think so. And that's something that, if DIYcity ever comes out of its semi-hibernation, would be pursued here. Because that's the trick to making open work and to getting people to buy in to it: making it integrated enough that it's reliable and isn't a complete pain in the ass for the end user (in this case the government and city residents) to figure out.
If the only choice is between open/fragmented and closed/integrated, most people will chose closed and integrated. But if there is a third choice, open-yet-to-some-extent-integrated, that then becomes the preferable option.
I don't fault New York City for going with a closed system for their recent contract - I would guess there aren't any open alternatives out there that offer the same level of integration as Microsoft's package. That's something that proponents of open cities need to think about. It's definitely something on my mind here at DIYcity.
I've had an incredibly busy week this week, and have had little time to put together a DIYcity Friday post (last week I missed altogether!). I did have lunch/dinner with two friends, NY State CIO Andrew Hoppin and Open Plans' Nick Grossman, and our conversations prompted a lot of thinking about cities, reinvention, openness, DIY, and where all of this is going.
Here are a few hastily-written notes on those thoughts. (These are my thoughts, not theirs, of course).
FIrst of all, Open Gov is too small a term for what's going on in cities. I felt that over a year ago, and wrote about it on O'Reilly Radar, and it's becoming even more apparent now. Of course Open Gov is a big part of what's happening, but it's only one part. Specifically, it was the part that needed to happen first - the foundation that had to be built before anything else could happen.
After several years of work, open gov principles are starting to get in place and get into use in certain cities around the U.S. and elsewhere. And the scale that it is happening on now is an order of magnitude larger than just two years ago.
And what is about to flower is something much bigger than Open Gov - it is a total reinterpretation of cities themselves, of how things are done in them, who does them, how effective they are, how efficient they are. The way we think of cities is about to undergo a huge (and necessary, and healthy) change.
But it hasn't quite happened just yet.
For this to really catch fire, for this next step to happen, one key component still has to be put in place. That is the element of sustainability. Not as in ecological sustainability, but as in business sustainability: we have to discover ways for those who work to make their cities better to do so not out of a sense of charity, but as a way of making revenue, making a living.
The DIYcity has to move beyond people taking action out of a sense of community interest, as civic hackers, as barn-raisers, and into a stage where people are being actually compensated for their actions - provided their actions are valued by the community. We have to move from a mindset of civic hackers to one of civic entrepreneurs.
Once it does that, the DIYcity becomes a real ecosystem, one capable of sustaining itself indefinitely.
That's the big step that has to be taken, the big gap that has to be crossed, and once it is, the transformation of cities is going to explode at an amazing rate.
I think we're already beginning to see this happen. And I want DIYcity to be an accelerator for that change, make it happen in cities all over the world more and more quickly.
That's what I've been thinking about when I think about DIYcity and the next two years. That's what I've been talking to people about.
I could go on, but have to get to a meeting now! More to come on this thought.
As I get back into DIYcity a bit, I look at the site, and a lot of the language on it seems outdated. There's a lot of talk about people working together, side by side, to collaborate on tools that everyone can use everywhere.
That all feels inconsistent with the world of 2010 to me - a bit like the rally cry of Obama's 2008 campaign, "yes we can". It's not that that message was off-base, it's just that in two years things have moved on. Today people - myself included - want to make things better, but at the same time are more concerned with just building some stability for themselves than with having some big, transformational, let's-all-get-together-and-change-the-world moment.
There's a bit less "let's do it" and a bit more "okay but what's in it for me?"
As there should be, really.
So, given that, what exactly IS the DIY City today? What does "DIYcity" mean, and how is it so relevant to what's happening right now?
Well here's my take.
Starting now, and developing over the course of the next decade, countless new businesses around the world will start up and learn ways to thrive by focusing on making cities and local life better. They will tap into and exploit every conceivable niche of data, technology, and social behavior, to transform cities into unimaginably well-coordinated, functioning, de-centralized places for people to live and live well.
This is going to be both the rise of a gigantic new industry as well as a general transformation in the way cities work and the way in which we think of them. There will be (I hope) opportunity for all parties in this new DIY City - for innovators and entrepreneurs, for city governments, for non-profits, for big companies and small companies, and of course for the people living in those communities.
Done right, the DIY City could be a source for wide prosperity at the local level in cities everywhere, and could be a force against stagnation and for differentiation in cities. (Done wrong, of course, it could result in prosperity for a few, and cookie-cutter communities around the world.)
And it's starting to happen right now. There has been a confluence of forces - ever-cheaper technology, open data movements, the global economic crisis, the hyperlocal movement, the DIY movement - that have jump started the process over the past two years, resulting in everything in this space we've seen to date, but this is really only the beginning. The real DIY City is just beginning, now.
And that, in a nutshell, is what DIYcity means today, in late 2010. Just how we get there is something we can discuss on this site in coming weeks.
I've got to update the language on the site to reflect this new, current vision on DIY Cities and how we can help make them happen. I'll get to that at some point.
It's been two years since we kicked off DIYcity and started digging down on ideas around the notion of individuals participating in civic reinvention . And two years is a long time in the lifespan of ideas these days. So is the idea of the DIY city past its shelf date?
No. Just the opposite, in fact - it's more relevant now than it was two years ago. And it will be more relevant still in another year, and in another year after that. The future of the city is the DIY city, and we're coming up on that future quickly. It's that continually increasing relevance that is driving me back to post on DIYcity more, to think about this more, and to explore more.
Here are some data points that have come across my radar lately. I thought I would share them with you as a kick-off post to DIYcity, to point to where I think all of this is going:
Cities need reinvention now more than ever. More than they did two years ago, certainly. Consider these recent headlines:
A suburb of Atlanta shuts its entire bus system down, leaving residents without public transportation.
California's budget gap is now estimated at $26 billion, and the governor plans massive statewide cuts in order to balance it.
The city of Cairo decides it will build two entirely new megacities to deal with the overwhelming population in their city.
There are many other examples I could draw on here (e.g. the Greek economic melt down in spring), but these are the first that came to mind and they'll do. It's clear that society at all levels - local, regional, national - needs reinvention, rethinking, innovation, and this innovation needs to come from everywhere and everyone.
2) Signals that this distributed innovation is already starting to happen:
Luckily just as the need for all of this rethinking, experimentation, innovation is becoming so extreme, we're also beginning to see people respond and try to tackle these challenges on their own. Consider these data points, individually small, but emblematic of much bigger things at play:
Weeels, an app that lets me find rides to share with others near me in Brooklyn, saving money for all, saving resources, making the city more efficient. (Still has a way to go before it will succeed, IMO, but it is a great start).
Roadify, a group of entrepreneurs who took it upon themselves to create a distributed, user-driven bus tracking system in Brooklyn. (Will it succeed? I'm not sure, but it is part of a great experiment.)
Civic Commons is a collaboration between several organizations, working with cities, to create "an open civic stack".
These initiatives are fledgeling in nature, but I'm confident that within a few years they and others like them will lead to projects, enterprises, and organizations that would seem immense, complex and amazingly robust to us if we were to look at them today.
These are the beginnings of a real DIY city.
3) The Market:
Lastly, there is the question of market for civic reinvention. How big is it? Well, Booz Allen just recently announced that it is huge. $40 trillion over the next 25 years, in fact, to re-make cities everywhere.
So you've got the need, you've got the players, and you've got a gigantic market. You've got all the conditions in place for an amazing transformation to take place - and it will take place.
DIY cities aren't going away - rather we are undergoing a shift in how we think about cities, and everyone in the world is going to make that shift sooner or later. Some people (like those reading this) have already started to make the shift. Others, the vast majority of people, haven't, but they will soon.
And so now, it really is time for DIY cities to come into their own.
More on this next week...
In the FY 2011 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies
Appropriations Requests, there is a $1 Million request for the Major
Cities Chiefs of Police Association which would be used to purchase
services from CrimeReports.com.
CrimeReports.com is a private company that makes contracts with
municipal police forces to provide their crime data to the public on
the CrimeReports.com website--but according to the PDs' specifiations.
In the process, the public information that the source crime data is
may seem to become more accessible, but this is not the case.
CrimeReports is contending in a current federal case that public crime
data becomes CrimeReports' own proprietary product in the form
provided on CrimeReports.com. (See links below and The Citizen Media
Law Project's article, "Public Engines to World: Look, But Don't Touch
the Crime Data"
In this view it would be technically illegal for someone to duplicate
or republish material from CrimeReports.com by other means, which many
PDs may use as their sole or primary means of providing public access
to crime data. (It is not access to data, it is access to a limited
representation of some data.) This is not only bad for public and
media oversight, it is bad for technologists who wish to tap public
data for research and applications.
From the appropriations document:
Project: The National Crime Map Expansion
Purpose: The National Crime Map currently includes more than 800 law
enforcement agencies across the country; its aim to make incident
level crime data available to the general public at the neighborhood
level within 24 hours of occurrence.
Location: Draper, Utah
Recipient of Funds: Major Cities Chiefs of Police Association
Explanation/Justification: Very few members of the public have ready
access to street level crime information on a timely basis. This
funding will allow any law enforcement agency in the United States to
connect to the existing National Crime Map, CrimeReports.com.
Currently, more than 800 agencies have already joined at an average
total cost of $110 per month. Through this funding, CrimeReports.com
will be able to expand the map and drop the cost of integrating and
deploying the system to roughly $20/month per agency, regardless of
size, population served, or members of the community served. In
contrast, cities that build their own portals spend $50,000 - $100,000
per agency to implement local crime maps.
Last week I posted here that I wanted to get DIYcity going a bit again, after spending a year away from it.
What I've decided since writing that is that the way to do this, for now, is to post to it once a week, on Fridays.
The posts will focus on these questions:
• how has the notion of the open, user-driven city changed in the past year?
• what has worked, what hasn't worked? (and what needs more time to work?)
• where are cities, civic participation, sustainability and open government going next?
• how will they get there (and who will take them there)?
These may be written by me, or they may be conversations with friends working in the space, or they may take other forms, who knows. I'm going to be pretty flexible about what form things take, and just focus on posting something weekly on these issues. (If you have ideas for things you'd like to see here, or if you'd like to post as well, or have a discussion, let me know!)
I've got tons of ideas for DIYcity that I'd love to put into action, but I've also got a lot else on my plate as well, between Appify (which is going to be great soon, I swear) and all of the other things and people I'm working with.
So for now, one post a week, on Fridays, seems like a manageable way to put into this again, little by little.
So look for a post here on Fridays, and we'll take it from there. See you next Friday.
Over the past year DIYcity has been mostly silent, except for a few rogue postings about upcoming events and such.
When I stopped posting last October I was so busy between trying to launch a new site and helping take care of a new baby that I had no spare bandwidth for posting to DIY at all. So I just stopped.
But this summer I was struck with an urge to start up the engines here a bit again. The baby that was consuming all of my spare time last year is now a toddler, and less all-consuming, and the site I was trying to figure out is now largely figured out, and with a few more iterations may actually be pretty good. And things are feeling a lot more sane these days.
So I figure I'll give in to that urge and start DIYcity up a bit again this fall.
I'm not quite sure yet what form it will take, how often I will post, what direction it will go, etc. I'll figure that out as I go. I do know that this space is even more exciting now than it was two years ago when I started the site. There is so much going on, and also so much to be done. So whatever happens, it should be exciting and fun.
So - stay tuned. In a little bit I'll be back with something or other to post in this space.
Looking forward to it...
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
I don't mean to spam the list but I got my links wrong in my first post.
The Open Call for World Maker Faire is real, and here are the real links:
refer here to my original post for details
thanks to Dave for pointing out my mistake, and I really look forward to seeing your Maker projects!
cheers, Nick Normal
greeting DIYcity users!
my name is Nick Normal and I'm an artist, maker and educator based in Long Island City, Queens, NY.
I wanted to let everyone on this list know that Maker Faire is coming to New York City - and by extension the East Coast! - for the first time later this year, on September 25th and 26th. There's currently an open call for Makers to submit proposals - the deadline is August 15th.
Maker Faire is the world's largest DIY festival - a blend of Art, Technology and Science, combined with family-fun, participation, robots, craft and do-it-yourself ethics.
I'm helping recruit Makers and we're looking for projects involving open-source code, robots, DIY makers, engine-hacks, solder fiends, hobbyists and enthusiasts, fixer-uppers, food makers, etc.
if you DIY we want you involved!
Here's the link to the open call:
World Maker Faire NYC Open Call
or if you have any questions, comments or conerns you can contact me. My email and phone are below. I look forward to hearing from all you Do It Yourselfers!
artist, maker, librarian, diplomat
firstname.lastname@example.org (email, gchat, etc.)
Long time no talk!
This email came to me this morning via the ITP Alumni List and I found it interesting so I thought I'd pass it along. I don't want to paste the author's email live to the site, so if you're interested get in touch with me and I'll put you in touch.
Hello current (and past) ITP students:
I'm looking for some beta testers for my iPhone data logger application. I'm specifically soliciting bicycle riders to record their rides around New York City in support of my thesis research involving visualizing the cyclist experience. This is a proof-of-concept exploration in what a ubiquitous mobile sensor network could possibly look like, using existing technology that we already carry to learn about ourselves and our world.
I've chosen to focus on cycling in the city, but the concept is far-reaching (and I'm certainly not the first to approach this). Recently, The New York Times published an article revealing findings from a year of GPS logged taxi cab data, summarizing average traffic speeds in Manhattan by day. Similarly, Cabspotting visualized the taxi routes in San Francisco. Flight Patterns reveals the air traffic over the United States throughout a typical day.
Similarly, projects involving using the bicycle as a sensing platform have emerged as well. The Copenhagen Wheel is a dense array of motion and environmental sensors packed into an electric-assist rear hub. While not cycling-specific, the Personal Environmental Impact Report uses GPS-enabled mobile phones to infer mode of travel from speed and calculate your carbon footprint and exposure to air pollution.
I'm specifically looking to see correlations in rider travel patterns. Are there commonalities in routes, sound levels, bumps? How are riders navigating to similar locations? What are typical trip durations and speeds? Do different types of riders (commuter, enthusiast, courier, racer, delivery rider) behave differently? When are riders on the roads? For all of this, what could it look like as visualization?
This application is the data collection mechanism I've chosen to employ for this exploration. It records location, heading, speed, altitude, accelerometer, sound level, trip duration and distance to storage on the device. Each log can be viewed on a map and individual samples inspected. Export logs via e-mail in CSV, JSON or Golden Cheetah format. Data can be automatically uploaded while recording as well.
This application will be released as open source software under the GPLv3. Source code will be available at: http://github.com/rcarlsen/Mobile-Logger
If you'd like to participate in this beta test, please e-mail me the UUID for your iPhone (3G or 3GS, OS 3.1+) device. This can be retrieved in iTunes by connecting the iPhone via USB cable, and clicking on the Serial Number field in the device summary. After displaying the UUID, go to Edit > Copy to copy it to the clipboard.
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!
Hello all of you out there on DIYcity. It's been a long time since I've written in, and I just wanted to give a quick update on things.
First: progress on the new site is speeding along, though predictably taking ten times longer than expected. The idea has evolved and evolved into something very new and different, and I think exciting. It feels like we're in the home stretch toward a launch now, but one never knows for sure.
Then: wow, the world really is changing fast, isn't it? It has been almost exactly one year since DIYcity was launched, and in that time we've seen DC, San Francisco, NYC, Vancouver and Toronto all open up data sets for their cities. I've talked with tech people in other cities who say they're preparing to go down the same road. I think we can expect things to start moving even faster in the next year. (Really makes the case for a new version of DIYcity, no?)
Here are a few events coming up in the next month around open data sets, in various cities around the world:
A NYC Open311 Dev Camp October 24th
A Toronto Open Data Lab November 2
A San Francisco Open Data Event on November 7.
That's a very partial list, just culled from things I'm planning to (hopefully) attend. If you know of other events I've missed, feel free to post them here.
Some other links here, to things I've written around the web lately:
- How Long is Your City's Tail? on O'Reilly Radar.
- Getting Beyond Hyperlocal on Urban Omnibus.
Finally: apologies for all of the spam that was going out on DIYcity until recently. I think the site somehow became the target of a massive, global spam network. I've clamped down on the freewheelin' anyone-can-post-at-any-time nature of DIYcity for a bit, until it calms down, then will hopefully remove the clamps again once the coast is clear.
That's all for now. More to come...
Reposted announcement from Philip Ashlock, The Open Planning Project:
I'd like to invite you to take part in the initiative to bring cities together in the pursuit of sharing technology and standards for 311 services. Please forward this to other interested parties.
To attend or see the current list of attendees including other cities: http://open311.eventbrite.com/ (So far the 311 teams from NYC, D.C., Toronto, Columbus, and other cities are attending)
On October 24th, The Open Planning Project will host Open311 DevCamp at their NYC office. Please register to attend either in person or remotely 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.
Ultimately this conversation will lead to a standard specification for 311 services, but the very first goal is to create an environment for knowledge-sharing and best practices.
On the same day there will another event in NYC that focuses on coordinating open technology for mobile devices and we plan to coordinate with that event as well: http://openmobilecamp.eventbrite.com/
I hope you can be involved or can forward this to the most relevant person in your city. Please let me know if you have any questions.
I just recently discovered DIYcity and am fascinated by the forward-thinking nature of this endeavor. As a planner and web developer it's right up my alley.
We have recently been kicking around some ideas about how to truly mobilize Twitter, to use it outside, on streets, in parks and in venues - accessible for anyone, not just the Twitter "elite". Beyond some of the obvious uses of Twitter, it's a great exchange format, merging information from both humans and machines in a very straightforward way.
Anyways, I don't want to go into much detail, since that's probably all old news for everyone here. We have put together a prototype that basically allows anyone to request the most recent tweets and link to more via text message. It works for both, Twitter accounts and hashtags, and anyone can post to hashtags via text message, if they are not on Twitter. In addition, we're playing with various sticker formats, to encourage interaction outside, on site. And that's where DIYcity comes in.
We'd love to brainstorm and test some use cases and some of the ideas discussed here seem perfect. As a start, some of our ideas include:
- Mobile dialogue in parks, squares, etc.: Use a hashtag as "discussion forum", to post safety issues ("6'5, bald guy with green shirt just stole my purse"), to fun stuff ("Need 2 more players for our volleyball game, come to xyz"), weather alerts, lost and found, etc.
- Mobilize announcements from delays, to parking spots (http://twitter.com/BoulderParking), to city infos (http://twitter.com/iknowdenver) and make them accessible beyond Twitter's user base.
- More advanced concepts of the mobile city (http://www.planetizen.com/node/39717)... again, going beyond the Twitter user base.
As I said, we have a prototype to play with at http://GuerrillaTweets.com and would love to get feedback, discuss the concept and assumptions and hopefully get some of you interested to play with it or collaborate.
The new DIYcity is finally underway, being constructed and on the road to launch. It's a great feeling after so much time spent considering approaches, assembling team members, etc., to see things actually being built.
Now we just have to build it, launch it, and hope that it's the right answer to the challenges facing everyone out there trying to make cities and communities work better.
I think it is.
As we get closer to launch, I'll start to unveil the new idea a bit more, talk about the insights and factors that have led to this change in the site, and introduce some of the new team members so that they can begin to have a presence on the site.
Until then, please continue to enjoy the site as it is!
DIYcity is looking to talk with government CIOs and tech teams from cities everywhere.
As the age of open civic data gets underway, what are your needs, your challenges, your hopes, your uncertainties? How can non-governmental, public-facing organizations like DIYcity assist you in achieving your goals? What can you learn from our past year's experience of engaging city residents on the issue of civic software? And what can we learn from you, to make our site serve your community better?
We're having conversations with tech teams from cities around the world right now about these things, and we'd love to talk to you, too.
Contact us at email@example.com and just say hi to get started.
Somehow a month has slipped by since my last post to DIYcity, and looking over the site it feels as though it could as easily have been a few years.
One thing is clear: it's time for a revised version of DIYcity. Not just a touchup, but a total revamp, a re-imagning of the site, one that holds true to the idea of creating Do-It-Yourself Cities everywhere, but that is more in step with where things are at the moment.
Luckily, that's exactly what we're working on.
It has taken me longer than expected to get this going. I've been putting together a team (more on that later). I've been talking with advisors. I've been talking with city CIOs. I've been weighing different ideas for implementation against each other.
In the meantime the field has continued to grow and evolve, and I think that evolution, and the evolution of ideas for DIYcity, are going to meet up and the results will be great. It's what an investor of ours at Outside.in once called "skating to where the puck is going to be".
So hang in there for a few more weeks. Please excuse the random foreign-language spammer who occasionally slips through the cracks to send out link-bait to everyone. We're on our way, we have one or two more hurdles to cross, and then it's a straight shot to a new DIYcity.
In the meantime, enjoy your summer.
The City of SF has undertaken an experiment to develop an open source platform with the community that will help improve public access to raw government data in machine readable formats. We see a great opportunity to work with other cities and developers in creating technology that is re-usable, free and open source to solve a common challenge. As members of DIYcity, this might be of interest.
You can learn more at our wiki and if you’re technically inclined check out our documentation. Our next open meeting is 7/2 @17:00 PDT dial in: 219-509-8111 [252380#]
jay [dot] nath (at)sfgov[dot]org
Come join us for a meetup to solicit ideas, interest, participants and planners in the upcoming Breakout! Festival on July 1 at 6:45pm at New Work City (200 Varick Street, Suite 507b).
This summer the BREAKOUT! Festival will return creative work to the
streets of New York. Using coworking as a model, and injecting
lightweight versions of essential office infrastructure into urban
public spaces, BREAKOUT! will explore new and productive niches for
working outside of traditional office buildings. BREAKOUT! seeks to
create a new architecture for the creative city by appropriating
public spaces for the collaborative knowledge work that drives the
This meetup gathers together fans, volunteers, and planners interested
in helping make outdoor coworking and the BREAKOUT! Festival a
The Agenda? Discuss:
* the upcoming New York Festival (September 18th - October 30th)
* ideas for facilitating breakout sessions
* cool things needed for breakouts
* how to participate in a breakout
* how to do more
Please RSVP here:
Hope to see you there!
If you've been following the posts on DIYcity, you may have sensed recently that we've been in a sort of holding pattern. Launches of a couple of products in the spring and a flurry of activity around various ideas were followed by questions of how to make all of this work worthwhile to the people doing it, and how to sustain that work once people's initial enthusiasm for it has leveled off. As this happened production on DIYcity came to a standstill, and the site has been functioning as a sort of bulletin board for announcements about DIY-type developments ever since.
While this has gone on, I've been thinking and thinking about what shape DIYcity should take in order to address those questions of making work worthwhile and keeping the work going. I've been bouncing ideas and questions off of my growing list of brilliant advisors. I've been thinking about what the next stage of DIYcity is going to be, exactly.
With help from those advisors, I've finally got the plan. And it's good. It's exciting. I think it could become the most interesting thing I've ever worked on.
So the plan is there, ready to go. There are just a few (financial) matters to attend to before we can put it into action.
I'm going to start preparing for this new phase of DIYcity immediately behind the scenes, and just figure that the still-open stuff will work itself out by the time I'm done preparing. Then we'll get on to that next stage for DIYcity.
Until then, there may be a bit more of a holding pattern. We'll try to make that as interesting as possible for everyone, and hopefully it wont last too long.
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'm on vacation this week and only on the web here and there, so my posts to DIYcity will be slim for the next few days. I wanted to post a link to this, though, a post I wrote yesterday for O'Reilly Radar. It came as kind of a moment of clarity for me on how the whole gov2.0 space is shaping up. I think it's important to understanding DIYcity's place in the ecosystem of civic data - as well as understanding any other effort in relation to the whole. This could easily have been a post to DIYcity instead of Radar, but it ended up there. So I'll link out to it.
See the post here: http://bit.ly/r1grg
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
Here are links to some posts in various groups this week, summarized for those of you in the Main Group:
In DIY Chicago: DIYcity Chicago Get-Together (old thread with new life)
In Discussions: Outlining a DIYcity 1.0
In DIY Vancouver: Tool Lending Library
In DIY Atlanta: Atlanta Crime Report
In Discussions: A DIYcity 1.0 Framework
I've spent the last few weeks thinking about the next stage for DIYcity, rather than posting to the site. As I mentioned in an earlier post, everyone, including myself, feels like it is time for DIYcity to make a leap to the next stage. The site has had some good successes, some good proof of concepts, has been instrumental in developing a certain kind of thinking about cities and the web, and now needs to start doing all of that even better. But what that means, and how to get there, has been uncertain. Now I think I have a good idea for this. Certainly, at the least, I have a very interesting idea. Rather than talk about the idea itself though, I'm just going to start steering the site slowing in that direction.
So all new posts you'll see from me are going to be with that idea in mind - the idea of this next stage and how to get there.
Please keep posting whatever you want to the site in the meantime. That element of DIYcity is will not go away regardless of what stage DIYcity is at.
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.
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.
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...
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.
My past few weeks have been busy with DIYcity-related things that haven't lent themselves to posting on the site much. Briefly, I've been:
- working on a plan for DIYcity to take it to a new, bigger, more exciting and more effective level (a DIYcity 2.0!).
- working a whole lot on SickCity with the SickCity team, trying to stay ahead of last week's swine flu scare and the resulting tsunami of sickness-related twitter messages. (and writing about the team's efforts on O'Reilly Radar).
- attending, and presenting at, a conference in Princeton on City Planning, Civic Engagement and the Internet.
So my contribution to the site has been pretty minimal lately.
Luckily the site has enough people and enough momentum these days that it doesn't really need me to move it forward. Since I've been off doing other things, we've picked up a couple hundred new members, plus new local groups in such interesting places as Wellington, New Zealand and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (no post in that one yet!). We also have a lot of interesting posts in local groups and in Discussions, like this one by Clint about a retweeting service he's built.
Anyway, I'm mostly done with all of that stuff now, and back on the site, so expect to hear a lot more from me in the various groups in the coming days. I've learned a lot in the process of doing all of those things mentioned above, reflected on a lot, and will be working all of it back into the site over the next week or two.
So, onward we go!