Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Civic Apps’ Category

University of Washington video highlights apps for students

by Matt Rosenberg October 1st, 2012

Recently at Public Data Ferret we reported on a number of digital initiatives to enhance the student experience at the University of Washington.

Today we came across a newly-posted video by UW on some of those apps. It gives quick profiles of tools to find study space according to desired criteria; know when buses will really arrive; find courses quickly; be notified when openings in popular courses occur; and navigate Dawg Daze. The video also suggests some key Twitter news feeds for UW students.


Here’s an auxiliary link to the video in case the embed above is acting balky.

Public Data Ferret’s University of Washington archive


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Government as platform: the podcast

by Matt Rosenberg November 25th, 2011

The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU-FM at American University in Washington, D.C. recently featured an hour-long podcast about how governments are using emerging technology to engage stakeholders. Joining the host were: Bryan Sivak, Chief Innovation Officer for the State of Maryland and former Chief Technology Officer, District of Columbia; Tom Lee,
Director, Sunlight Labs; Alex Howard, Government 2.0 Correspondent, 
O’Reilly Media; and Abhi Nemani, Director of Strategy and Communications at Code For America. A money quote, from Alex Howard:

One of the principles when you think about this open-data movement which is now worldwide is to help the data find the people who need it. And that often won’t mean going to a government website…In the ’90s, we talked about websites. Last decade, we started talking about Web services. So it’s not about going to a portal anymore. It’s about going to an application that might pull in data feeds from dozens of different places.

And the thing that government can do in releasing public sector data is then see that data be baked into applications that are useful and find citizens where they are actually using it. So mobile application which uses local health data, a transit application that uses transit data to help people to, you know, find where they need to go…Most citizens don’t want to see raw data, but they do want to know how to do things. And that’s where the Gov 2.0 movement can make a difference.

That’s just a snippet of a rich conversation. Listen to the whole show, even read the transcript.

Alex Howard, O'Reilly Media/Alex Howard

In coming months, here at Social Capital Review, the mother blog of the Public Data Ferret news knowledge base project, we’ll be developing a guide to Seattle-area civic apps including mobile, that use government data streams to help people meet their everyday information needs. Over time, it’s also going to be interesting to look at the “conversion rate” of government data sets posted online. Every big city, county and state government worth it’s salt, and numerous federal agencies, all have so-called “data sites” full of data sets, typically in formats that are accessible mainly to software developers.

The idea is that civic-minded geeks will come along, in many instances, and do the “social utility value add” by developing apps for mainstream audiences, such as ones we have here in the Seattle region which tell you when your bus is really going to arrive, or what the recent health inspection scores are for that Thai restaurant you’re about to enter. But how often does that value add – that packaging of the data into a useful, customizable tool – really happen? And are enough of the right data being released, or sought out?

(Note: the podcast transcriptionist incorrectly refers to the pioneering Baltimore government performance data program CitiStat as “city set” and a corollary Maryland program called StateStat as “state set.” (StateStat is well worth a look, BTW).

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Alex Howard’s Digiphile blog, and his Google+ page.

Sunlight Labs.

Code for America.


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MOVE maps digital stories on diet, smoking in King County

by Matt Rosenberg October 24th, 2011

Almost 70 digital stories on healthy diet, obesity prevention and smoking prevention from Seattle and King County residents are mapped online at a new web site called Mapping Our Voices For Equality (MOVE). Featured are digital personal narratives on healthy eating in challenging surroundings, teens learning healthy cooking, finding low-cost exercise opportunities, preventing smoking in shared public spaces, and related topics. The initiative stems from a program developed by the U.S. Centers For Disease Control (CDC).

An easy mapping interface at the site lets users scan the region, then click on locations and view digital stories and videos developed by community members with the assistance of local organizations including Sea Mar, Creative Narrations, Entre Hermanos, Puget SoundOff, International Community Health Services, the REACH Coalition and the government agency Public Health – Seattle and King County. Currently, 69 stories are mapped and more are coming according to organizers. (Stories are found on the map by clicking on large icons and small multi-colored dot clusters which reveal more icons; also, all are indexed at the site’s “stories” page.)

In the Kitchen of FEEST from Mapping Voices on Vimeo.

MOVE arises from a federally-funded campaign called Communities Putting Prevention To Work (CPPW) originated by the CDC which enlists grassroots resources to develop and spread messages counteracting obesity and smoking. Both are major health risks in lower-income neighborhoods. The MOVE site also includes resources for learning, action, and developing new stories.

In a statement, MOVE Project Manager Natasha Freidus said that through the Web site of mapped stories local residents “have become more involved in creating positive changes for their communities while learning new technologies.” Added Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, “MOVE provides a forum for voices from the community as well as a visually interesting way to capture the exciting changes that are happening in King County” around public health awareness and community engagement. The map has a customizable “changes” view that lets users explore the policy changes that have occurred in King County on healthy eating and fighting obesity and smoking as a result of CPPW’s work.

MOVE has scheduled three community forums this autumn to highlight involvement in obesity and smoking prevention awareness and action. Residents will present the MOVE story map and digital stories, along with their policy priorities, to panels of elected officials. The first of the three events is “International District on the MOVE” Friday October 28 at Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific-American Experience, 719 S. King Street, Seattle. It will include neighborhood tours, free entry to the “From Fields to Family” exhibit at 3 p.m. and a community forum at 4 p.m.

Public Data Ferret’s Public Health archive

Editor’s note: Public Data Ferret or its “mother blog” site Social Capital Review periodically cover community group or non-profit news. Contact matt(at)publiceyenorthwest(dot)org.


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Politiwidgets lets you embed data on U.S. officeholders

by Matt Rosenberg October 3rd, 2011

Whether you write online about public affairs or are just doing some due diligence on an officeholder, Politiwidgets is a government transparency toolset worth exploring. Developed by technologists at the non-profit Sunlight Foundation in Washington, D.C., Politiwidgets let you embed easy-to-read graphics of performance and contextual data on members of the U.S. Congress and Senate into online articles, blog posts or social media entries. The data are all drawn from first-rate cited sources, to which links are provided.

Widgets can be customized to different sizes/Poliwidgets

At Politiwidgets, each member of Congress or the Senate has their own page with a range of data in several categories. Here are the Politiwidgets main pages of all Washington state U.S. Representatives and Senators. The first feature is their “business card” which includes contact information, plus a link to their Web site and social media accounts. Getting into the data, you can see how many bills a legislator has sponsored versus how many of those have been enacted, and how those figures compare to the average for legislators in their chamber. You can also review and compare the records of legislators on how many earmarks – appropriations which are directed to specific recipients – they have have won approval of, again versus the average for legislators in their chamber.

Other legislator data at Politiwidgets includes voting records, campaign contributions, top contributors, interest group ratings, top U.S. government contractors in their district, and district map.

I’ll demo Poliwidgets by showing the most recent full-year earmarks data for each member of the Washington state delegation. U.S. Rep. Jamie Herrera (R-3) isn’t included because she was just elected last November, and there’s no data reported for her yet in that category at Politiwidgets. I’ve used the earmarks widget for U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-9) (above) to show a different size option than those below and to illustrate that with a bit of elementary code you can embed the widgets neatly in text, and add a caption.

The Sunlight Foundation invites active bloggers on public policy and politics who’ve used Politiwidgets to share their feedback in an online survey.