Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Friday, January 25, 2008

EveryBlock Now Online

I had the opportunity yesterday to explore, a new website that captures community information on an address-specific basis for a different way to look at what's happening in your community. Right now the site covers Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, but the author is promising to add more cities over time.

Al's Morning Meeting blog provides a quick assessment of the functionality of the website and its tools. I played around with the site and quickly got Flickr photos, news stories, crime reports, restaurant inspections, business reviews, and a number of other localized information bits about a part of Chicago I knew nothing about.

On the one hand, this is an exciting expansion of usable information into the hands of people who might want to know more about a neighborhood. Combine this with and you've got an incredible amount of address-specific information in one spot.

On the other hand, however, finding the meaning behind the signal noise just got a little bit harder. What does all of this information mean? What can I do with it? How can I aggregate or constellate the information in a way that tells me the story -- or even a story -- of the neighborhood? Can I draw a conclusion from the information in any way that makes me feel comfortable that I've added to my understanding of the community? Can I make better decisions about public policy or social service provision or economic development at any level more than "gee, that looks awful. don't think I want to live there!"

I don't know the answers to these questions. I'm excited for the product, but I suspect it will take others to figure out how to best use this new tool for community improvement and not just voyeurism.

But you need to know more about the project itself. Here's a selection from an interview with Adrian Holovaty at Poynter Online (click here to read the full article):

Tompkins: What does EveryBlock do?

Holovaty: EveryBlock filters an assortment of local news by location so you can keep track of what's happening on your block, in your neighborhood and all over your city. We compile news, we classify it by location/geography, and we present a beautiful, easy-to-use interface that lets people view news in specific locations.

Tompkins: How does EveryBlock work?

Holovaty: There are two main ways of reading news on EveryBlock -- by location and by type. You can search for any address, neighborhood or zip code in the city (more on the city list in a bit), or you can browse by type of information: restaurant inspections, mainstream media articles/blog entries, crimes, building permits, etc.

Tompkins: How does the data gathering/classification work?

Holovaty: We have a sophisticated collection of computer programs that crawl news and information from all around the Web. We've written some algorithms that are able to detect locations in free-form text with a reasonable degree of certainty, and we also manually tag information in cases where the computers don't cut it. This is an area of ongoing experimentation.

Comment here on what you think, or let them know at -- they have a nice feedback form to allow for your input on how to make the product better.

Hat Tip: Kathy Pettit


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