Month: May 2010

Celebrate Gov 2.0 Hero Day June 15!

i heart Gov 2.0 HeroesOn a whim, right after GovFresh launched, I started the Gov 2.0 Hero feature to recognize citizens doing great work inside and outside of government. It’s been inspiring to watch, not only shining the spotlight on people who don’t get a lot of recognition or publicity about the work they’re doing, but also seeing the community cheer them on once they’re featured.

To celebrate the valiant efforts of Gov 2.0 Heroes everywhere, we’re proclaiming June 15 Gov 2.0 Hero Day. While this may sound silly, it’s an opportunity for the Gov 2.0/open government community to share who inspires them and who’s doing great work (besides, everyone has a sensitive side and showing appreciation never hurt anybody).

Ideas to help you celebrate Gov 2.0 Hero Day and how you can honor your own Gov 2.0 Heroes:

  • Write a blog post (“My Gov 2.0 Heroes”) or vlog featuring your heroes, why they inspire you, what others should know about their work and how you can help them.
  • Tweet your Gov 2.0 Hero on Twitter with the hashtag #gov20heroday
  • Get creative. Buy them a beer, wine, flowers, dinner, take them to the spa, clean their house, sponsor them.

Show others you appreciate the work they’re doing. As the open government movement evolves, let’s work together to bring fresh faces into the community and share our appreciation for those inspiring us to work harder to build a better government.

How are you going to celebrate Gov 2.0 Hero Day?

The politics of open government free speech

I occasionally post critical comments when government is operating outside my definition of ‘open’ and only do so when I believe it’s important for the community at large to consider it in context of their own actions. By and large, GovFresh posts are positive, educational and, at times, congratulatory pieces that highly offset the critiques.

What’s interesting about the critical posts is that they never get much openly shared traction. You don’t see high-volume tweets or Facebook ‘Likes,’ especially when it concerns large, federal bureaucracies.

When reviewing traffic analytics on these posts, the pageviews and unique visitors traction is noticeably different than what you would expect related to social network ‘chatter.’ This is interesting, not only because it affirms email’s influence as a content sharing mechanism, but more importantly, the critiques manage to make the rounds despite the appearance otherwise. People ‘feel’ it, but won’t say it.

This is understandable. Whether you’re a government employee or contractor, the last thing you want to do is upset the 8 million pound gorilla. Not only may people in the agency be your friends, but they also hold the purse strings to significant business opportunities.

While I’m not naive, it does concern me there can’t be an open discussion about what is wrong with certain aspects of the way government does business. It’s as if we’ve scratched the surface, and that’s as far as we’re willing to go. It’s fine to superficially engage with technology and transparency leaders, deploy Web 2.0 tools and open source software, but when it comes to acknowledging the contrarian, ‘open’ suddenly becomes ‘closed.’

If you consider yourself an open government advocate or practitioner, and these critiques incense you, you can do one of two things. Either do something about it, address it publicly and move on or disregard it completely and revert back to business as usual.

Open government is the former. It’s an ideal and opportunity to fundamentally change the way government works, and if you’re incensed by it and don’t want to engage, look in the mirror and ask yourself this: ‘Am I honestly building a better government?’

I’ve had a number of conversations with colleagues inside the Beltway, and they acknowledge the dynamics. People appreciate the perspective, but they won’t openly express it.

This type of culture leads me to ask myself, “Is there a place for something like GovFresh to exist and sustainably maintain itself? Will government contractors or service providers support a blog or news site that at times is critical of its customer? Does GovFresh have to choose between watchdog or ‘play inside Beltway?’ Can you have it both ways?”

Maybe I’m too idealistic or naive to think open government means ‘open government.’ As democracy matures into a more transparent, collaborative and participatory role, I hope more people, be it government employees or contractors, feel comfortable about publicly expressing their concerns without being chastised or ostracized. I hope the leaders of these institutions, especially government, openly engage with the criticisms and set an example for others, including industry, that’s it’s OK to do the same.

If anyone can’t respect that, perhaps I’m overly-idealistic or maybe, instead of ‘two steps forward, one step back,’ we never fundamentally left square one.

Spigit launches CitizenSpigit, government crowdsourcing, engagement platform

CitizenSpigitIdea management software developer Spigit announced the launch of CitizenSpigit, ‘a platform that enables government agencies to engage citizens and employees to improve efficiency and operations, as well as to generate actionable ideas.’ The City of Manor, Texas, is the first municipality to deploy the platform, which it uses to power Manor Labs.

The platform is available to government agencies starting at $5,000/month. You can download a product spec sheet or register for a demo.

CitizenSpigit features list:

  • Core Idea Management Platform
  • Pricing starting at 5K per month with unlimited users
  • Available on the GSA
  • Reputation Scores/ Virtual Currency
  • Social Media Tools (i.e. Blogs, Wikis, Polls)
  • Online Incentives Store
  • Standard Reporting
  • Idea Markets
  • Community Management Services
  • Customized site branding

City of Manor CIO Dustin Haisler discusses their use of the CitizenSpigit platform:

100+ Women in Government & Technology

I like making lists, so when GovFresh invited me to put together a list of women involved in government and technology efforts, I jumped at the chance. But although top ten lists are wildly popular, I’ve met so many incredible people working on Gov 2.0, open government, e-gov efforts that I thought the world needed a better glimpse of the breadth of involvement women have at all levels of government, in nonprofits, academia, conferences, media and the private sector. The hope is that this list will allow event organizers, members of the media, other list makers, etc. to easily build a diverse representation in their projects.

I published another list a few years back of top women in tech policy &/or politics on The Political Voices of Women blog, and there are a few cross-listed here, but the goal here was to take out the partisanship and just focus on ongoing efforts of women using technology to empower government and the public process. While I was researching, I did compile more names of women involved in Europe and Australia. That will have to be another list, but it was exciting to find even more amazing women, particularly through this post by Carrie Bishop.

Here’s the disclaimer: although I did ask around and use several different resources to build this list, I’m sure there are people I missed. So I welcome additions at any point. This is all about being inclusive and expansive. That’s another reason that the list includes Twitter info for as many of the women as I could collect, so it’s easy to find them. Many of those women are involved in multiple ways, so some have been cross-listed in 2 or 3 categories. Each group is alphabetized. If anyone is mis-categorized or does not wish to remain on the list, please drop me a line @sairy on Twitter or via email, sarah(at)sarahgranger(dot)com. Additions, please add in the comments.

Government staff, Gov 2.0/government tech public sector

  • Emma Antunes (NASA) – @eantunes
  • Beth Beck (NASA) – @bethbeck
  • Alissa Black (City/County of SF) – @alissa007
  • Sarah Bourne (Mass.gov) – @sarahebourne
  • Kirsten Burgard (Office of Information & Technology)
  • Michelle Chronister (GSA)
  • Mary Martha Churchman (DOT)
  • Casey Coleman (CIO GSA) – @caseycoleman
  • Cammie Croft (DOE) – @kookycam
  • Linda Cureton (CIO NASA) – @curetonl
  • Gretchen Curtis (NASA Nebula) – @gretcurtis
  • Mary Davie (GSA) – @marydavie
  • Katie Dowd (State Dept) – @katiewdowd
  • Amanda Eamich (USDA) – @amandare
  • Megan Eskey (NASA) – @meganesque
  • Kristy Fifelski (City of Reno) – @kristyfifelski
  • Rachel Flagg (Washington State) – @rachelflagg
  • Kate Geyer (Mass Open Data) – @parsnipsoup
  • Bev Godwin (GSA) – @BevUSA
  • Lisa Grant (FEDSIM, GSA)
  • Suzanne Hall (Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau, State) – @suzkph
  • Barbara Haven (California Dept. of Technology Services) – @bhaven
  • Evonne Heyning (NOAA) – @amoration
  • Virginia Hill (NIH)- @GinnyHill
  • Elizabeth Hochberg (GSA)
  • Jeanne Holm (NASA JPL)
  • Chris Johnson (NASA – US Space & Rocket Center)
  • Melissa Jordan (SF Bay Area Rapid Transit)
  • Sarah Kaufman (NY Convergence, Metropolitan Transit Authority)
  • Cara Keithley (Ohio Dept. of Commerce) – @carakeithley
  • Caitlin Klevorick (State Dept) – @caitlinbk
  • Gwynne Kostin – @gwynnek
  • Carolyn Lawson (State of CA Office of CIO)
  • Randi Levin (City of Los Angeles)
  • Carmen Medina (CIA)
  • Beth Noveck (White House Deputy CIO)
  • Hope O’Keefe (Library of Congress) – @lentigogirl
  • Julia Rosen (HHS)
  • Tracy Russo (DOJ) – @tracyrusso
  • Katelyn Sabochik (White House; formerly DOI)
  • Amanda Scott (US Trade Representative)
  • Sonal Shah (White House Office of Social Innovation & Civic Participation)
  • Katie Stanton (State Dept) – @kateatstate
  • Teri Takai (DoD; formerly CA CIO)
  • Haley Van Dyke (FCC)
  • Merici Vinton (Serve.gov) – @merici
  • Michelle Viotti (NASA JPL)
  • Stacey Walker – @staceywalker
  • Jess Weiss – @jessweiss
  • Veronica Wendt (US Army) – @v_vern
  • Lovisa Williams (State Dept) – @lovisatalk

Elected Officials involved with Gov 2.0 efforts

  • Debra Bowen (Secretary of State, California) – @dbowen
  • Pam Broviak (City of Geneva, Illinois) – @pbroviak
  • Sally Lieber (former State Assembly Member, California) – @sallylieber
  • Claire McCaskill (US Senate, from Missouri) – @clairecmc
  • Jill Miller Zimon (City Council, Ohio) – @jillmz

Open government Policy/advocacy, nonprofit sector, academic researchers

  • Kate Bladow (Pro Bono Net)
  • Heather Blanchard (Crisis Commons) – @poplifegirl
  • Danah Boyd (Berkman Center) – @zephoria
  • Judy Brewer (W3C)
  • Deborah Bryant (OSU Open Source Lab) – @debbryant
  • Danese Cooper (Wikimedia Foundation, OSI)
  • Jessy Cowan-Sharp (OpenGov Tracker/Sunlight) – @jessykate
  • Kety Esquivel – @ketyE
  • Judith Freeman (New Organizing Institute)
  • Julie Germany (George Washington School of Public Management) – @julieg
  • Kathy Gill (University of Washington) – @kegill
  • Abby Goldberg (Digital Democracy) – @digiabby
  • Sarah Granger (USACM) – @sairy
  • Leslie Harris (Center for Democracy & Technology)
  • Bryna Helfer (National Academy of Public Administration)
  • Mary Hodder (UC Berkeley) – @maryhodder
  • Emily Jacobi (Digital Democracy) – @digidem
  • Cara Keithley (Franklin University) – @carakeithley
  • Lorelei Kelly (New Strategic Security Initiative)
  • Tina Lee (Stanford) – @mstinalee
  • Elizabeth Losh (UC Irvine)
  • Ellen Miller (Sunlight Foundation) – @ellnmllr
  • Jen Pahlka (Code for America) – @pahlkadot
  • Stormy Peters (GNOME Foundation) – @storming
  • Megan Rhyne (Virginia Coalition for Open Government) – @opengovva
  • Paulette Robinson (National Defense University)
  • Denice Ross (Greater New Orleans Community Data Center)
  • Gabriela Schneider (Sunlight Foundation) – @stereogab
  • Sarah Swensson (Orange County Transportation Authority) – @RailSafeSarah
  • Nancy Watzman (Sunlight Foundation) – @nwatzman
  • Veronica Wendt (NDU) – @v_vern
  • Heather West – @heatherwest

Writers, bloggers, other media, government & tech conference organizers

Gov 2.0/government tech, consultants in the private sector

A new model for public sector open source adoption using Drupal

The debate over whether (OSS) is good for government is over. A close look will reveal the discussion has moved on to one of two things: 1) the necessary, but subsequent implementation questions to be sorted out – security, regulation, procurement, etc. or 2) organizational confusion about how to take the first step. In either case, the precedent of value has been established both within government and elsewhere to allow us to now move on to the natural next set of issues.

Open source software is here to stay

So the discussion must turn from ‘whether to use’ open source to ‘how to make it work’ for government. These discussions should be especially welcome in the government IT environment – long dominated by IT projects that take too long, cost too much, and never seem to hit the mark by the time they are deployed. Corporate and non-profit organizations of all sizes have been able to demonstrate significant financial, operational and strategic value using open source. Also, we have the precedent and models set by the server stack – Linux has become the dominant operating system and Apache, the webserver for the majority of the world’s most important web servers.

The problem is that taking advantage of the open source opportunity at the application level creates paradoxes for government IT. Our system doesn’t know how to take advantage of free and open software at the application level – government is used to building everything custom or customizing products that already cost a ton to license – ‘there is a catch here somewhere for us’ goes the thinking about OSS.

Rather than move quickly to take advantage of affordable and innovative open solutions, government loses momentum and gets bogged down by concerns over whether it is practical or even ethical to use contributed code: Can we use something that is free? How can we procure it then? Can we use code contributions from the outside world? Will it be secure? Can we contribute our own code to the rest of the world?

Drupal works for open government needs

As if the argument to adopt open source needed more kindling, enter the administration’s unrelenting push for Open Government – with a huge online focus and component. Now we are seeking *new* ways to quickly establish mechanisms to promote transparency, participation, and collaboration in online dealings between the government and its citizens. Yet successful user collaboration solutions are already implemented on all kinds of sites.

The case for free, collaborative software which is developed, tested and vetted in the open by an efficient base of innovative developers has been clearly made when you consider the the open government mandate. These are use-cases made for a platform like Drupal – the ability for a user to respond to content and policy online through commenting, rating, sharing, voting, and an endless array of other social media integration is perfect.

As I have said in prior posts on this site “Drupal is up to this challenge”. This is what we use it for and where it performs best. At this week’s Gov2.0 Expo, a group of my colleagues will try to convince you of this point in a session entitled Drupal and Social Publishing Strategies for Meeting the Open Government Directive.

I realize that is going to take some time for government CIOs and web managers to be fully convinced – as it did with publishers, non-profit execs, education administrators and decision makers in dozens of other industries. For sure, the commercial vendors and embedded custom implementers have other ideas about how to construct the next wave of gov2.0 – and they likely have some good solutions to promote too. But open source Drupal is my choice for this particular set of tasks and here is what I think we can do to help prove that.

We need a government community open source CMS option

In late 2008, my company, Phase2 Technology initiated an effort to put together and then release an open source packaged version of Drupal that would help online publishers of news, magazines, and other publications get started with Drupal right away. We called it OpenPublish, it was a big success, and it is going stronger than ever now. From that project, we learned that Drupal can be made significantly more useful, less intimidating and more powerful through a distribution targeted at a specific set of industry challenges.

So after wrestling with putting government sites on Drupal over the last two years, we have decided to launch a similar project we think will help government and Drupal find each other faster – in the same sort of way as OpenPublish was able to married up publishers looking for the advantages of open source with Drupal. We are calling this project OpenPublic because of the similarities and because we see it as the public sector equivalent of the same experiment.

We believe the project can be successful and provide substantial value to government sites if we can achieve these 7 tenets that are lacking in current CMS options for government:

1. Low barriers to entry.

Someone from, or on behalf of, the government should have the immediate ability to start or prototype a project without an RFP, procurement cycle, Statement of Work or contract vehicle. Download, test, try out and play with it for free. Today. No strings attached.

2. Demonstrable return on investment.

It should be easy to prove that that the tax payer is getting high value for services, without wasteful scenarios in which the government is putting large investments directly into reinventing functionality that exists elsewhere or overpaying for commercial licenses to use relatively generic functionality (e.g. core CMS publishing).

3. No proprietary technology or vendor lock-in.

The solution can’t trap the federal government into a proprietary technology or forced monopoly experience that either requires repeated contractual awards, recurring fees or licensing costs to a single company that is the sole provider of technology expertise.

4. Low total cost of ownership.

It should be easy to prove if agencies are paying a premium over the course of ownership via post-purchase fees that do not involve the delivery of additional value. The government cannot grant annuities to vendors that continue to add cost based upon the justifications that were created because proprietary technology was used.

5. True technical flexibility.

The government must be able to modify the solution to meet continually evolving needs and be able to improve, modify, maintain and grow the solution over time.

6. Community innovation & contribution.

The government should benefit from the continued contributions of the open source technical community at large as it relates to inheriting solutions to similar problems and . It should gain from the innovations of this larger pool of talent.

7. Minimal barriers to extend.

The government should have the ability to get free and open access to knowledge, code, training and best practices on the platform – to the extent that others are willing to share – but not required to withhold.

OpenPublic: A community solution

OpenPublic is being developed as a community effort with Phase2 taking what we have learned from building Drupal distributions to lead the efforts, but we – by no means – want to go at this alone. In fact, we believe the quality of the solution and the value it can provide are both infinitely improved by community participation.

So we are looking for both people with technical experience in open source (Drupal preferably) and the business of government itself.

We are also actively looking for feedback and help from the opengov community that haunts events like the Open Government Workshops, the Gov2.0 Summit and Expo, the Open Government & Innovations conference and Transparency Camp. We are looking for the people that hang out and read GovFresh, GovLoop and the Sunlight Labs blog. We want the inputs of people on the Gov2.0 Heroes List and on Twitter lists like this, this and this.

If you believe in the same things and want to help, then please email us (openpublic at phase2technology.com) to let us know of your interests and share your ideas.

What’s missing from Gov 2.0?

What missing from Gov 2.0?

The answer: Education.

Like most agencies, we have done a significant amount of research at the City of Manor to determine how we could best use new technologies to interact and engage our citizens. In the process, we have discovered that there is one element that is quite often overlooked within the Gov 2.0 movement- education. Citizen and employee education is critical to the adoption of new technologies because the technology will not be used if it is misunderstood.

So now the big question, how do you educate employees and citizens?

For employees

We deploy and train employees on new technologies internally (before public release) so they can develop and understanding of its functions and discover new ways to utilize the technology. Essentially, our employees are the beta-testers and we make final decisions based on their feedback.

For citizens

Currently we speak at numerous civic events within our community to explain the value of utilizing these technologies to communicate and understand open government concepts.

What does the future hold?

The existing channels of education are not as effective as we would like, and as a result, we have partnered with the OpenCourseWare Consortium (OCW) to further training within Gov 2.0 technologies. The OpenCourseWare Consortium is a collaboration of more than 200 institutions of higher education and associated organizations from around the world that are creating a broad and deep body of open educational content using a shared model.

Manor’s participation will consist of:

  • Creating 10 free and open courses by 2012 centered around Gov 2.0, Open Innovation, etc. to educate citizens and employees to learn from.
  • Providing incentives to Manor Labs’ users that participate in OCW courses (Innobucks on Manor Labs).

Now what?

We want to know what you think about our plan. We want your ideas and feedback on how we can best education our employees and constituents on Gov 2.0.

We’ve created a portal on our open innovation platform for you to share your ideas/suggestions (and you don’t have to live in Manor to participate).

USAspending.gov 2.0 gets its money’s worth

Version 2.0 of USAspending.gov launched this week and includes a cleaner, more elegant user interface and search filtering on all federal government spending. The new site was developed in Drupal and is partially hosted on NASA’s Nebula cloud service.

Users can search anything from bombs to toilet paper and filter government spending by location, timeline, agency, extent competed, recipient, product/service code, NAICS and fiscal year.

USAspending.gov first launched December 2007 as part of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) of 2006 that required the Office of Management and Budget to ‘establish a single searchable website, accessible to the public at no cost’ on all federal government spending.

From USAspending.gov What’s New in 2.0?:

  1. Compare spending across agencies – understand types of agency spending understand types of agency spending
  2. View agency spending dashboards – see how and where agencies are spending money and who the recipients are
  3. Explore spending trends with interactive charts – use interactive motion charts to see how spending trends have changed from year to year
  4. See spending where you live – use interactive maps to see dollars being spent in your state
  5. Quickly find what you are looking for – use interactive search features to customize your search across multiple dimensions
  6. Filter, analyze and share – share your feeds, exports and results with friends via social book-marking and RSS feeds
  7. Analyze contract and award transactions – review all transactions for a single contract or award in one simple list
  8. Download bulk data – download all spending data for offline analysis
  9. Get spending updates every day – access new spending data on a daily basis
  10. Expect more transparency – look for more spending data in the future as 2.0 is engineered to support full FFATA compliance

    USAspending.gov

    Reno 2.0: How Reno.gov is going Gov 2.0

    Reno.govThe year is 2007, and all you can do on the City of Reno, Nevada, website (then cityofreno.com) is pay a parking ticket, when the payment system works. About the only other interactive feature is the animated gif of the flaming building on our fire department’s homepage.

    Fast forward to present day, and Reno has transformed its online presence and is embracing Gov 2.0 to connect with citizens and put meaningful services online.

    We are now Reno.gov – and you can still pay parking tickets (reliably), as well as traffic citations, court payments, sewer bills and recreation classes. You can also submit a police report and get assigned a case number, make a request through our CRM system, apply for a job and look up development permit status. We also have several RSS feeds, interactive calendars, streaming meetings, Newsroom, polls, social bookmarking tools and our most popular feature – our four webcams.

    As the Web Services Manager for the City of Reno, I presented a web report to our City Council a few weeks ago highlighting the dramatic increase in citizen use of our online services over the last few years.

    Reno goes mobile

    Reno launched a mobile site in March 2010. It provides access to Reno.gov via a smart phone through a special interface formatted to fit a cell phone screen. It is cross-platform compatible and the best part is that citizens don’t have to remember a special mobile address – they can just browse to Reno.gov. Emergency announcements would appear first, and news and events have been redesigned to be accessed easily.

    I’m considering this ‘phase 1’ of our mobile site, with phase 2 involving working with our vendors to offer mobile payment systems similar to those offered by large consumer banks. Reno worked with Vision Internet to develop the mobile site. Reno.gov is one of the first sites to use their new mobile technology.

    Reno is embracing social media

    The City of Reno’s social media program is driven by a very small staff, but has achieved big results. Reno has more fans and followers than most local governments our size, and we are engaging more citizens than ever online. We’ve had great success using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr and our Around the Arch blog. I believe our total investment has been about $200 as we’ve done everything in-house.

    Bloggers include myself, two PIOs, and occasionally staff experts in specific subject matter areas. Each post is transparent in identifying the author, with a link to author photo, bio and recent posts by that author. Our blog is multi-media rich, including embedded YouTube videos and Flickr photosets and visitors can rate the quality of our posts using a five star scale.

    I’m working on an upgraded and redesigned version of our (WordPress) blog that will be released in a couple of weeks. The new version will feature more integration with other social media platforms, simplified administrative capabilities and will be available via reno.gov/blog.

    Reno’s web services team

    Like many local governments, Reno only has one staff member dedicated to the website. We contract with Vision Internet for our CMS platform and web hosting. As the Web Services Manager, I coordinate and train 70 or so staff members representing every department – people who have full-time responsibilities in other areas but who post and maintain content on the web. New applications and web enhancements stem from projects across our organization and involve me in conjunction with IT and any involved departments.

    Our internal Website Committee includes one staff member from each department and is a good forum for department representatives to share their online needs. We meet regularly to report on website issues and challenges and discuss new ideas.

    What’s next for Reno?

    I’m excited to share what’s coming down the pipeline. We’re working with our CRM vendor on an iPhone app due to come out in the next couple months. We’re close to launching a “Live Chat” feature on Reno.gov. A “green energy dashboard” will be unveiled in June that will let citizens check out real-time energy savings from solar and wind projects around Reno and download energy data. We’re also working closely with regional agencies to create a one-stop location for northern Nevada residents to sign up for government volunteer positions. The joint effort is expected to launch in 2010.

    Local governments have some very big challenges embracing Gov 2.0, due in part to limited staff and resources. My best advice to other cities is to make sure you start with a strong foundation first (CMS platform, web team, governance), while aggressively planning for the future. When I started working for the City of Reno a few years ago, staff would suggest things to me like “This other city website has the mayor walk out on the screen and talk to you. We should do that.”

    It’s a challenge committing to the core elements of a solid web services program, but once established, initiatives like Gov 2.0 are that much easier to pursue.

    Building an Open311 application

    TweetMy311Earlier this year, I had an idea to build a Twitter application that would allow a citizen to start a 311 service request with their city.

    At the time, there was no way to build such an application as no municipality had yet adopted a 311 API that would support it (although the District of Columbia did have a 311 API in place, it did not – at the time – support the type of application I envisioned).

    That changed recently, when San Francisco announced the deployment of their Open311 API. I quickly requested an API key and began trying to turn my idea into reality.

    My idea resulted in an application that I soft launched last week. TweetMy311 is now live and can be used in the City/County of San Francisco to report 311 service requests. The project website has a detailed description of how it works, but its very close to my original idea.

    More good news on the Open311 front came recently when it was announced that San Francisco and the District of Columbia had come to agreement on a shared Open311 standard. This means that apps built to work with the San Francisco 311 API will also work with the 311 API in Washington DC. I’m working on enabling TweetMy311 for Washington DC now, and hope to have this service live there in a few weeks.

    Ultimately, I hope people use my application, that they like it, and that it makes it easier to report an issue to their municipality. I did, however, have some other motives in developing this application that I think are equally important.

    Are you experienced?

    Since 311 APIs are rare, and (right now) applications that use 311 APIs are also rare, I think there is value in being able to capture the experience of developing an Open311 application from scratch. This information can provide tremendous value to the governments that deploy 311 APIs (what works, what doesn’t, what can be improved, etc.), and for developers thinking about building an Open311 application.

    I hope to use TweetMy311 to provide feedback to governments that deploy 311 APIs (and to those thinking about deploying one) so that they can get a sense of how the experience works from a developer that has used one. At the end of the day the ease of use of an API, the quality of documentation, the ability to test applications in a meaningful way and a number of other factors will determine how many developers decide to take the step and become a “civic coder” by building an Open311 application.

    Getting to Open

    For me, the use of open source technologies in TweetMy311 was important. This project provided a great opportunities to learn more about a technology that I have become fascinated with of late – CouchDB. TweetMy311 is a NoSQL application that uses CouchDB at its core. It runs on Ubuntu Linux with Apache and was built with the PHP scripting language (I guess that makes it the CLAP stack – CouchDB, Linux, Apache, PHP)

    Building with open source technologies was important because I hope to be able to share the code I have developed with interested governments that want to learn how an Open311 application is put together. I also believe it’s important because I think the Open311 initiative can be a great mechanism for encouraging the use of open source technologies.

    Leading up to this project, I developed a small PHP library for interacting with the San Francisco Open311 API. I make use of this library in TweetMy311 and any other developer that wants to use it in their project is free to do so. I plan on branching this library soon so that it can work with the new version of the Open311 standard.

    Give it a twhirl

    So if you live in San Francisco and you want to give TweetMy311 a twhirl, check out the description on the project website. I’d appreciate any feedback – positive or negative – because ultimately I think it will make the project better.

    I had a great experience developing TweetMy311, and I learned a lot. I’m looking forward to sharing my experience with interested governments and other developers.