Sat Aug 22 2009

On the documented city

Last week saw the launch of, an initiative of the County of San Francisco to share datasets relevant to the city of San Francisco. It also saw the sale of Everyblock to MSNBC for an undisclosed amount. The connected city and data are two of the topics I often allude to when talking in conferences, and have been the focus of several blog post in the past. So it probably comes as no surprise that both these events got me pretty excited.

Cities are slowly waking up to the need for public data. San Francisco, Vancouver, Washington are some examples. I’m sure there’s others. Definitely not enough, however, and definitely not at the right pace. While I’m sure the idea of the documented city will soon strike the tech-savvy politician (or to the tech-impaired politician with the right helping hands) as a good way to get to get more supporters, it couldn’t come too soon.

The documented city, where a citizen (software developer or otherwise) has access to raw data relevant to his place of living, will contribute to healthier, better informed lives. In the data certainly lie statistics on the right place to live, the right place to buy a house, the best places to eat, work, play. The documented city means the obvious emergence of applications and tools that help people make better use of their own neighborhood.