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September 13, 2013

We've been informally crowdsourcing the most common 50-ish reasons not to release data that have been heard by those working both inside and out of government on the federal, state, and local level in the US. The reasons, as you can see below, run the gamut from staff training concerns to the ever-looming specters of privacy and security to the persistently optimistic ("It's already public [in a filing cabinet downstairs]."). This list is not comprehensive, but it's an informative start and a useful tool for dissecting the rationale behind and resistance to releasing data -- as well as some of the information gapsthat exist around the benefits of opening data. It also gears us up for the next step in our experiment: responding to these challenges.

Earlier this year, Sunlight was issued a challenge: Collect and refute the most common reasons not to release data.*

August 30, 2013

How would you crowdsource community priorities and developing a community-driven process  --  with 92 people who speak 10 different languages? This organization did. Learn how.

As we work here at EngaginCities to help you discover new ways to help your communities, we're launching a series of podcast interviews with people we think are doing something that you might find useful.  If your have feedback for us or leads on good interviews, please let us know through the Contact Us link on this page.  

August 30, 2013

They’ve shown your consultation some love by taking the time to have a say. Show them some in return by saying THANKS!

by Tracey Gobey

I subscribe to a great online marketing blog, Social Triggers, and once again Derek Halpern has delivered BIG in thought provoking content.

His blog focuses on how  psychology helps boost online traffic and sales. While it is marketing and sales focused, I strongly believe that some of the techniques and strategies from this space are vital in getting, and keeping, communities engaged online.

August 29, 2013

The possibilities of open data have been enthralling us for 10 years.

I came to it through wanting to make Government really usable, to build sites like TheyWorkForYou.

But that excitement isn’t what matters in the end.

What matters is scale – which organisational structures will make this movement explode?

Whether by creating self-growing volunteer communities, or by generating flows of money.

This post quickly and provocatively goes through some that haven’t worked (yet!) and some that have.

By Francis Irving

The possibilities of open data have been enthralling us for 10 years.

I came to it through wanting to make Government really usable, to build sites like TheyWorkForYou.

But that excitement isn’t what matters in the end.

What matters is scale – which organisational structures will make this movement explode?

Whether by creating self-growing volunteer communities, or by generating flows of money.

August 29, 2013

[C]onverging technologies have changed even basic assumptions about public services -- so much so that it's getting hard to even define the specific purpose of the most advanced of these customer-relationship-management systems. Try this exercise: Is 311 ...

-- A centralized customer service call center?

-- A multimedia hub for residents to communicate in any way they wish -- via a smartphone app, texting, a phone call or a dedicated website -- with their governments?

-- A platform for community engagement that connects residents with others of common interest, "listens" to social media comments and no longer is limited to waiting for a complaining resident to ask government for help?

August 29, 2013

OpenStreetMap's annual international conference, State of the Map is returning to the UK, the first time it has come to the UK since the very first State of the Map in 2007.

State of the Map is the global gathering for everyone contributes to and/or uses OpenStreetMap. We will assemble to celebrate the scale of the changes and achievements so far. There will be keynotes and a breakout stream of presentations and workshops examining current practice, organisation and relationships; and preparing for the changes we can expect in coming years. In fact, so much has happened and is happening to OpenStreetMap that the theme of this year's conference is "Change."

Booking to attend the event is now open. The amount of accommodation on-site is limited and is first-come, first-served but there are still some places left. Rooms in the Business School (where the conference is) are no longer guaranteed available - please phone for availability.

August 7, 2013

Mobile is an experience, not a device. Mobile technology is becoming a more important part of the public participation toolkit, but the real promise of mobile participation is to engage people in decisions while they are in the various spaces where change occurs. It’s not simply enough to have town hall meetings or public engagement websites, nor is it enough to adopt a mobile app and expect people to get involved - new outreach strategies are required.  

July 24, 2013

BaltimoreCode.org lifts and ‘liberates’ the Baltimore City Charter and Code from unalterable, often hard to find online files —such as PDFs—by inserting them into user-friendly, organized and modern website formats.  This straightforward switch delivers significant results:  more clarity, context, and public understanding of the laws’ impact on Baltimore citizens’ daily lives. For the first-time, BaltimoreCode.org allows  uninhibited reuse of City law data by everyday Baltimore residents to use, share, and spread as they see fit. Simply, BaltimoreCode.org gives citizens the information they need, on their terms.

From opengovfoundation.tumblr.com

We’re excited to join with the Baltimore Mayor’s Office to release BaltimoreCode.org, a free software platform that empowers all Baltimore residents to discover, access and use the local laws when they want and how they want.  Highlights below.  Full background here.

July 22, 2013

Our State of the City Report confirms once again what Charles Darwin found 130 years ago: strength and intelligence matter but its adaptation that probably matters most. In order for cities, and our nation, to adapt to this changing world, our leaders must find new ways to develop solutions that are grounded in present conditions but with an eye toward the rapidly approaching future.

ED Note: I had a great interview with the author of this piece that we published here last week.  Ben and Living Cities are doing powerful
connective work, of the type that we need.  If you haven't read that conversation, take a look at it here.  I think you'll be glad you did.  
July 19, 2013

CommonSights helps organizations interested in promoting communities, downtowns, or neighborhoods to build an engaging, interactive map of local sights and attractions. A community map that can be found and accessed anywhere: on smartphones while on-the-go, on unique signs around town, on kiosks or online from far away. Easy access via NFC tags, QR codes or short links, no download required. And best of all, it's crowdsourced.

ED NOTE: CommonSights is an EngagingCities sponsor organization.  Interested in becoming a sponsor?  Learn more here.  
CommonSights is also partially owned by EngaginCities' publisher.  
July 17, 2013

We have this deep-seated desire to believe that experts can hand us answers. We spend huge sums on consultants (the ones who claim to have 937 years of combined experience) in the hope that they will lead us to some promised land -- or at least, figure out for us a palatable solution to the tough issues that our communities are facing.

And then we find out, sometimes a generation later, that they sold us snake oil, or that their answers created unintended consequences that chew away at  our communities' strength.

There are an increasing number of voices that are challenging the assumption that past experience correlates to ability to solve current problems -- especially those problems that are, as the academics put it, discontinuous -- fundamentally different from what has happened before.  In that setting, relying on experience can hobble, rather than help.

from wiseeconomy.com

We have this deep-seated desire to believe that experts can hand us answers. We spend huge sums on consultants (the ones who claim to have 937 years of combined experience) in the hope that they will lead us to some promised land — or at least, figure out for us a palatable solution to the tough issues that our communities are facing.

July 17, 2013

Several months ago a group of MapStorytellers started MapStory Local with the idea of creating both a community of MapStorytellers, and a place to compile various forms of data about how our local communities (towns, cities, counties, etc) have evolved over time.   We’ve spent the past few months creating a workflow and step-by-step process. Now, data collection can begin.

July 3, 2013

What interactions will appear, if freelancers, collaborative groups and private business joined forces to develop creative projects in a local scale? Let’s bet on mixture of creativity of people working and living there!

From eme3.org.  By GrubyPunkt
July 2, 2013

In fact, based on the federal government's FY12 budget actual expenditures of $3.538 trillion, federal IT managers could potentially recognize nearly $500 billion in savings across the federal government via big data initiatives, according to a new study by MeriTalk.

From http://www.cio.com.au.  By 

Despite the challenges of the budget sequestration that went into effect on March 1, federal agencies are pressing forward with big data initiatives, hoping to squeeze big savings out of more efficient use of their data.

July 1, 2013

[H]ere are some easy, “almost-no-budget-needed” steps you can take to ensure your users will be happier (or at least less frustrated):

From http://blog.howto.gov.  by 

If you want a better user experience on your government website, there’s a simple secret: early planning.  Good designers know that it’s much more difficult to make changes to something before it’s built than after. This is true for designing just about anything, whether it’s a website, car, or new kitchen.  

June 28, 2013

Increased access to municipal information gives everyone — not only entrepreneurs — a better understanding of information the City collects and maintains, giving better insight into what the City does. It also provides the opportunity to use this data for academic research and non-profit analysis, among several others.

From http://www.futuregov.asia, article by Rahul Joshi

In this first part of a two-part feature, [Chris Moore, CIO  of Edmonton, Alberta] talks about the changing role of the CIO, puts Open Data in context, and identifies three technologies that are set to impact the CIO’s role in a big way.

June 28, 2013

 

An increasing number of governments have now committed to open up data but how much data is actually being released? What kind of data is this and in what format? Which countries, regions and cities are the most advanced and which are lagging in relation to open data?

The Open Data Census has been developed by the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) to assist in answering these questions and assess the state of open data around the world. It collects and presents information on the evolution and current state of open data around the world. The Census is a community-based effort initiated and coordinated by the OKFN but with participation from many different groups or individuals. The Census was launched in April 2012 to coincide with the OGP meeting in Brasilia.

We want to help our friends at OKFN  improve the coverage of the Open Data Census (http://census.okfn.org/) and verify existing contributions to ensure information is still up to date and reliable. We need your help in doing this!

June 27, 2013

An increasing number of governments have now committed to open up data but how much data is actually being released? What kind of data is this and in what format? Which countries, regions and cities are the most advanced and which are lagging in relation to open data?

The Open Data Census has been developed by the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKFN) to assist in answering these questions and assess the state of open data around the world. It collects and presents information on the evolution and current state of open data around the world. The Census is a community-based effort initiated and coordinated by the OKFN but with participation from many different groups or individuals. The Census was launched in April 2012 to coincide with the OGP meeting in Brasilia.

We want to help our friends at OKFN  improve the coverage of the Open Data Census (http://census.okfn.org/) and verify existing contributions to ensure information is still up to date and reliable. We need your help in doing this!

June 25, 2013

This excellent document gives "practical guidance to City of Philadelphia departments and agencies on the release of open data to the public." It's clear, well-written well-organized and designed to make policy and practical sense to non-technical City Staffers. If you're having trouble getting your community to understand why open data matters and how to practically and efficiently make it happen, this may provide a good start.

This excellent document gives "practical guidance to City of Philadelphia departments and agencies on the release of open data to the public." It's clear, well-written well-organized and designed to make policy and practical sense to non-technical City Staffers. If you're having trouble getting your community to understand why open data matters and how to practically and efficiently make it happen, this may provide a good start.

Have at it!

June 25, 2013

Repeatedly over the past few months, I’ve eavesdropped on or participated in conversations about how there’s not enough user research done in civic software. Having the journalists’ comments so well-received underscored this fact for me yet again. At OpenPlans, we have been making an increased effort to include user research as an integral part of our software development process. It is something that often gets passed over in civic software, especially volunteer run and supported projects.

From openplans.org. By Mjumbe Poe, @mjumbewu

June 24, 2013

Officials managing the Ghana Open Data Initiative (GODI) are set to launch a mobile application version of the project. This is to make government and other relevant state institutions more transparent

From ghanabusinessnews.com, by Ekow Quandzie
June 21, 2013

Urban/regional planner? Interested in open source geospatial tools? Here's a short round up of some. 

From http://scenarioplanningtools.org.  By Jason Lally, @synchronouscity:
June 21, 2013

had a lot of conversations with people in the open-data community. What they've been really good at is exposing a lot of data sets—it's been made accessible by the city and the government, and they've been good at exposing it in easy-to-inform ways, like a map or a web app that shows where the buses are.

 

That's been good because the data is now in front of people, because the normal consumer isn't going to go into a portal, and download a file, and open it in Excel. So what they've been really good at is bring that data to the people.

I think the next thing is using that to make inferences, to make predictions, to improve certain outcomes. So it's great that you can look at this data and see where the buses are, but the next step is to ask "can I improve the bus routes? Can I work with CTA to find better scheduling?" What I'm pushing them towards is taking the same data they've been having people look at, and asking "how can I improve the process that's generating this data?"

....The next step is not just looking at it, but using it to make predictions about the future and improving the outcomes for the people who are consuming those services

 

From Chicago Magazine.  By Whet Moser

....I had the opportunity to ask [Rayid] Ghani some questions about the future of civic data and the open government movement, the use of machine learning and public data to improve civic services, the campaign's use of data, and more (our conversation has been edited and condensed).

June 20, 2013

Izmo has organized the fourth edition of the Izmo International Summer School in Turin, from July 22nd to August 1st 2013, which focuses on public art and the (semi)public space. The course is aimed at students, graduates, professionals and, in general, anyone who is interested in sustainable art and creative design.