Watercooler: The Software Side of the Street

Here’s some of the chatter that bubbled up around our office water cooler over the last few weeks:

+ In the the City of New York, Mayor Bloomberg signed into law Introductory Number 29-A, aka the Open Data Bill.  This is a huge step forward in making the city government’s data more transparent and easily accessible and uniform across city agencies.  Three cheers!

 asks How do you measure the value of Gov 2.0?

+  Matthew Hall gives his opinion on the current state of affairs on open budgeting efforts and talks about the project Citizen Budget by OpenNorth.  It is giving citizens a chance to view government spending from the perspective of a decision-maker and decide and contribute to the the budget process for themselves. Open budgeting processes are shaping up to be next big thing in the civic engagement world, but have recent attempts been effective at truly and meaningfully engaging and shining light on the process?

+ Chicago Metropolitan Agency launched the Full Circle community mapping and planning project in early 2004 with support from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The purpose of the Full Circle project is to empower local communities to plan their future development.  It can be used to map and visualize any type of data – to the number and types of businesses in a business district to ease of access to government serviced

Team Better Block works with cities, developers, and stakeholders to create quick, inexpensive, high-impact changes that improve and revitalize underused properties and highlight the potential for creating great “Complete Streets”. Though comprehensive planning projects are necessary for most property developments, the cost, scale, and long-range timelines associated with these initiatives can often lead to a loss in project momentum and frustration or lack of confidence among development stakeholders and area residents.

SF Bike Share Map depicts proposed bike share stations that should be available in San Francisco for the pilot project after July 1, 2012.  Portland’s Bike Share System Map is collecting user input on potential locations in real time, whereas the SF map’s data was inputted after traditional community input meetings.  Two ways to skin a cat, but we kinda like the Portland way.  It uses our Shareabouts as a jumping off point.  If you live in Portland – click on over and share your input.

+ Here’s a nice tool to start visualizing data sets: Recline.  It combines a data grid, Google Refine-style data transforms and visualizations all in lightweight javascript and html shell.

+ Kaitlyn Curran mapped discrepancies between community board boundaries and apartment listings advertised on Craigslist to demonstrate the ways real estate interests manipulate neighborhood borders in “Bedford Hill: Craigslist’s Role in Shaping a Neighborhood,” Could (or should) these findings, (and using non-civic tools) be used to shape official boundaries?

+ We are surrounded by a constant shrill of companies harping about their “innovation”.  But what’s real innovation? Here’s a great re-cap of Bell Labs and true innovation.  The magnitude of ground breaking research that emanated from the labs laid down the foundation for the huge leaps in communications and computing that we are now in the midst of.  Does the Silicon Valley model provide for the same fertile grounds for deep innovation?

In his recent letter to potential shareholders of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg noted that one of his firm’s mottoes was “move fast and break things.” Bell Labs’ might just as well have been “move deliberately and build things.” This sounds like the quaint pursuit of men who carried around slide rules and went to bed by 10 o’clock. But it was not.
So how can we explain how one relatively small group of scientists and engineers, working at Bell Labs in New Jersey over a relatively short span of time, came out with such an astonishing cluster of new technologies and ideas? They invented the future, which is what we now happen to call the present. And it was not by chance or serendipity. They knew something. But what?