If you're a Boston resident and a pothole springs up on your street, help could be just a phone click away. The Citizen's Connect phone app will file a report for you.
What could be easier than a phone click? How about no phone clicks?
The Street Bump app, recently unveiled in Boston, uses the accelerometer built into your smart phone -- a device that measures speed and directon changes -- to detect when you've encountered a pothole. When you run the app, It will record a street bump event and file a report for you.
Civic hackathons are about making things happen. At civic hackathons, passionate people of all kinds come together to solve shared problems. You don’t need to be a coder, you just need to care. They help communities like Austin build strong ties between talented designers and developers and the countless organizations and individuals that work daily to make the city a better place. The diverse experiences, expertise, and ingenuity of residents can help shape what gets built at civic hackathons, and improve their resonance and relevance with citizens at large.
I did a presentation "Hack Your City" at the Central Texas Bar Camp yesterday. It was intended to be a demonstration presentation on open government and open data resources. Unfortunately, due to A/V issues, the demo part was nixed. So, I did an on-the-fly Plan B instead, which, I think worked out fine, based on the group discussion.
I did promise to blog the resources I wanted to show, so here we go.
Support for open government data is an emerging national trend. In January of this year, the City of Austin unveiled its data portal at http://data.austintexas.gov. On February 21, Code for America sponsored "Code Across America", a national day of "hacking" on civic-minded software applications. (That's "hacking" in the original creative sense, not the popular mischief-making sense.)
As part of the event, here in Austin, about 50 people participated in a CfA Hack-a-Thon. People organized around three projects. You can find out more about the projects at the event wiki page.
I worked on the "Find It" team, which focused more on an R&D effort than a target application. The question we set out to answer is could we acquire sufficient datasets from the government, primarily the City of Austin, and what could we do with them once they were incorporated into a common database form? You can read more about that effort at the aforementioned wiki page.
By the end of the day, I had a small Ruby script that would take a location (latitude/longitude) and search for a number of nearby features -- such as libraries and post offices -- and report the closest. After the event, I built out the proof-of-concept prototype into a web-based application that would attempt to determine your current location (using a built-in GPS if your device had one and you permitted it), and display the features on a map.
(I wouldn't normally do this, but due to the impending downtime I'll include a copy below.)
As some of the most engaged users of the city website, it's very important that we all get involved during this critical time. This rollout is a massive undertaking. It's likely going to be similar to the final phases of a kitchen remodel. There will be some dust and hiccups, but as the pieces go into place for completion, it (hopefully) will be beautiful -- so long as we pay careful attention.