Saturday, May 31, 2014

dare to read, think, speak, and.... hack?

Hacking is a maligned term these days. Like everything else, there is hacking for ill and hacking for good.  Let's focus on the good.  I hope all know (ok, maybe I hope at least a few know) that today is National Day of Civic Hacking. OpenPittsburgh has goings-on in Homewood today in support. All good.

Apologies for a bit of retrospection, but civic hacking is a polite phrase for a little of what goes on here. Not that long ago the only way to figure out what was going on with property assessments in Allegheny County was my own personal little data war (with a lot of web scraping) first documented in this old post: Anger, Angst, Assessment. Better work was the follow up by some, especially that of Tom Moertel focused on Mount Lebanon and reported in a series of posts on BlogLebo, There really has been remarkably little follow up in the record on the 'impact' of the now historical assessment on the future of Allegheny County. In the end it all may only be remembered via the higher art of satire. (Speaking of 'transparency'.... Why is there no video of Off the Record XII out there??)  So it goes.

Long before that I sometimes practiced scraping of campaign finance data to make visualizations like this on what state legislators had the biggest cash balances some years ago. And really less 'hack' than just an attempt at introducing some sheer transparency locally, I have been lax at keep up to date all the parts of my Pittsburgh Pension Page. Still, I'd be happy with any comparison to all of the data available on the official city of Pittsburgh pension page.

Yes, more than enough navel gazing there. Sorry. Others have long since jumped way ahead of those rudimentary little obsessions. Some Pittsburgh civic data is available these days that never was before.  But still infinites amount to do out there in Pittsburgh.  What is next big civic hacking challenge in Pittsburgh? Could be almost anything.  If you are interested at all check out the Code for America Pittsburgh Brigade (aka OpenPittsburgh) via their Google Group.

Seriously, what data should already be out there?? Personally I really have to wonder all that might open up if the Pittsburgh Parking Authority could ever make electronically available any of the data collected and locked up in all of the new electronic parking meters?  Think about that. That and the Parking Authority recently mentioned in passing that it has an phone app in development, something which would let Pittsburgh catch up with the city of Latrobe already has.  I really wonder if the web app in development here (so says the previous link) is for real at all or just an easy answer to a reporter. Has anyone seen an RFP or contract of any kind?  

It also goes without saying that the it's-going-to-come-eventually real time transit data from the Port Authority was not years in the future still. Godot at the bus stop??


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