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.
Just after I wrote my previous post on DIYcity, I was struck with an idea. I've been weighing it back and forth ever since. Should I do it? Should I not do it?. And I'm still not sure what the answer is. So: I'm putting my cards on the table and asking people reading this to weigh in with their own answer, to help me decide.
Here's the idea:
Over the past two years, New York City, Washington D.C. and a spattering of other cities have been home to some great apps contests, and these contests have brought some wonderful new services to those cities. And that's great.
But what about the rest of the world?
What about Sao Paulo? What about Paris? What about New Delhi? What about Ciudad Juarez? What about the twenty-some megacities out there?
All of these cities, cities everywhere, should benefit from the kind of thinking and innovation that gets stirred up by apps contests. Not just NYC and DC.
And, as you know if you follow DIYcity, I've always thought that cities should do these sorts of things together, that by looking over each others' shoulders, rather than operating as city-states, they learn a lot more and get a lot farther.
So here is the question: should DIYcity hold an Apps Contest for everywhere?
It would be a contest just like Big Apps, but for every city in the world. Any developer, anywhere, could participate and build an app for their own city.
How would we finance the awards? We'd crowdsource it on Kickstarter.
How would we get word out? We'd have to crowdsource that, too. (I'm sure we could do that, if we decided it was worthwhile.)
So it would sort of be an un-contest. An apps contest put on not by a mayor, or by the world bank, but by ordinary people, and meeting the needs of the people.
The question that I want you to answer is: is this exciting, here on the cusp of 2011? Are apps contests still relevant? Or are they stale? Are they an effective way to spur innovation?
That's what I can't decide, personally. What do you think?
Note: This is NOT exactly where DIYcity is "thinking about going in 2011", when we talk about where we're going. But it could lead us down the road to that place in a nice way.
More on that soon. I feel like it's time to start playing more of an open hand as I and others think through all of these things.
For now though: please weigh in on this question. You can either reply to this thread, or if you'd rather you can respond to me privately at geraci at gmail dot com.
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.
Hi everyone on the DIYNYC list. Just a quick note to say that tomorrow and Sunday is the Great Urban Hack at Eyebeam. I imagine many of you have already seen Noel Hidalgo's posts to various google groups, but if not, here is a snippet:
Design, report on, code and create projects to help New Yorkers get the information they need while strengthening a sense of community. It's all welcome: news, government information, arts, culture, education, politics or any journalism or technology project that helps residents connect to their communities.
You can come even if you don't have an idea, are not a coder. Come find a team to work with. Scholarships are available for talented people or folks with ideas that must happen.
I love that last part, "ideas that must happen".
Anyway, I'll be stopping by to check it out and add my two cents tomorrow around noon. Hope some of you are going as well, and hope to see you there.
Signup is here: http://meetupnyc.hackshackers.com/calendar/14969218/
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!