Sunday, April 12, 2015

Examples of Civic Hacks

One of the earliest civic hacks was, a 2005 mashup of crime data from the Chicago Police Department with Google Maps. Adrian Holovaty created as one of the first Google Maps mashups, and he received a $1.1M grant from the Knight Foundation as a direct result of his mashup. He used the grant to start EveryBlock, which he described as on steroids.

Many other civic hacks have been built with publicly available crime data, but there are also many other types of public data captured and presented by civic hacks. Here are ten civic hacks that a Google search found for me:
1. MadisonRightNow, weather, traffic, airline flights, parking and other current information about Madison, Wisconsin, USA
2. Adopt-A-Hydrant, Claim responsibility for shoveling out a fire hydrant after it snows.
3. PDX Reporter, Reports problems concerning various City of Portland infrastructures. A complete report consists of a photograph of the problem, a report type which categorizes the problem, report location and comments providing any information the user deems important. At minimum, a report must include a report type and location.
4. SeeClickFix, Report neighborhood issues and see them get fixed.
5. Open311, A collaborative model and open standard for civic issue tracking; example is Grand Rapids, MI, which uses the open311 API via spotreporters
6. ClearStreets, Plow Tracker tracks the city’s snow plows in real time to figure out which streets have been plowed. (powered by Chicago city data)
7. New York City Complaints Map, shows various complaints that have been submitted by NYC residents, like noise, streetlamps out, potholes, etc.
8. OneBusAway, make it easier to use public transit by providing easy access to schedule and real-time arrival information for the buses you ride every day
9. Chicago Flu Shots, map of where to get a flu shot
10. Tetsudo Now, shows the location of all mass transit vehicles on a city map
Other Chicago civic hacks are shown on this Smart Chicago webpage  and on Open City, and other civic hacks are listed on the Code for America Apps & APIs webpage.

Civic apps are sometimes developed as a commercial product or forked from the open source model to create a commercial product. This Accela webpage lists some of those types of apps.

Textizen, DemocracyOS, TurboVote and similar tools below aren’t strict 'civic hacks of open data,' but they are based on open source and are used by the civic hacking community. Apps and websites like these are useful tools for citizens and politicians open to the civic hacking approach to government.

The spirit of civic hacks is generally an open source ethos, so most civic hacks can be freely duplicated or customized for your city. Many of them are on Github which makes it easy to create an Appleton version of the hack. At some point it might be good to launch a Github site for northeast Wisconsin civic hacks. I'd love to work with a Github ninja to build that type of site. Contact Bob Waldron at bwaldron [at] gmail (dott) com if you want to discuss building a Github site.

If you know of a civic hack you think is useful, please send me a link to it.

Tomorrow's post will take a look at the general topic of open government and open data.


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