Google Public Data Explorer Visits NYC

I admit to being more than a little envious of those hackers who made creative use of New York City’s publicly available databases for the BigApps 2.0 competition.

Is there a way that non-programmers can share vicariously in the fun but without taxing limited tech muscles?

Yes. You just have to speak Google.

With their Public Data Explorer and the recently released DSPL formatting language, anyone with modest configuration skills—an area I excel in—can view statistical files in Google’s remarkably well designed graphing and charting app.

After spending a little time learning DSPL straightforward syntax, I decided to explore one NYC agency’s population dataset.Continue reading

Boost for Gov 2.0: Google Data Explorer

The Google Public Data Explorer is a visualization app that brings life to public policy data (or really any statistics you have) through animation.

Google picked up the software when it purchased Trendalyzer in 2007.

You may a remember a popular TED conference video, “Dr. Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes.”  Rosling was using Trendalyzer software developed by his non-profit organization, Gapminder, to dramatically display life expectancy improvements as income levels rose.

Last week, Google opened up the Public Data Explorer to accept anyone’s data— until now you could view a few sets of data from various US government agencies and the World Bank.

There’s a new data format to master as well.Continue reading

Inventin’ with App Inventor, Part II

I have completed a .1 release of my first Android app, hammered together with Google’s App Inventor toolkit.

It’s a simple but trailblazing RSS displayer that pulls in bill status from the New York State Senate’s own open government platform, called unsurprisingly, Open Senate.

To be truthful there’s nothing unique or groundbreaking about another Android app that displays government information.  In fact, half-way through my work I discovered Open Senate already has shrink-wrapped iPhone and Android apps.

The revolutionary part of my efforts has little do with me; they reside with Google.  Thanks to its App Inventor, any somewhat technically evolved person can make and customize useful mobile apps that are just right for their purposes.

And it’s all free, minus your own perspiration equity. Continue reading

Inventin’ with Google App Inventor, Part I

I first learned of Google App Inventor’s existence through David Pogue’s New York Times column. Over the summer, Pogue reported on his experiences using an early beta version of this then invite-only software.

As a former user of visually-oriented rapid development environments, I had a good sense of what the Googlers had come up with.

So it was fun to read how Pogue, no technical slouch by any means, and an expert assistant (his 13-year old son), struggled with this early, glitchy release of Inventor.

Pogue decided that App Inventor was not, in the words of Google’s marketing team, “programming for the masses.”

Based on a long afternoon’s work with the new public release of App Inventor, I would describe it as follows:  “a lightweight Android development environment that lets programmers, students, hobbyists, corporate IT-types, and others in this demographic install a simple app onto a smartphone.”

I can see why Google went with their more enticing call to action slogan. Continue reading

Open Gov in NYC Gets a Big Boost

I couldn’t make last night’s New York Tech Meetup in person, so I grabbed my laptop, settled into my sofa chair (after removing the cat), and watched the Livestream broadcast.  Besides liking introspectr (more on them in a later post), for me the most significant part of the evening’s entertainment was the official launch of NYC BigApps 2.0 contest.

As with last year’s first-ever competition, developers work with New York City’s open-gov data sets to create applications. The “most creative, best implemented, and impactful applications”, as judged by a panel of industry experts and leaders, will compete for $20,000  in prizes. The submission period ends January 12.

So what data sets are available to developers?
Continue reading

Meanwhile Over at Seatle's OpenGov Hackathon

Another weekend, another hackathon.  But the one that was just held in Seatle concerned itself with Gov 2.0 projects. And Technoverse favorite Tropo was there, along with open data service provider Socrata.

The winners were …  ChatterCast, which monitors 911 activity in your area and sends SMS notifications, and GeoCast, which lets you learn, also via SMS, about traffic conditions within a shape you draw on a map.

Tropo scripts  handled the telephony aspects for both these apps.

Congrats to the winners!

Continue reading

New York Senate Telecom Committee Is on the Phone

Earlier this month, I glued together two neat apps using parts supplied by two different VoiceXML unified communications companies. The first lets me call in to a VoXMLPHP script hosted by Tropo, which then interprets my voice commands and reads news articles using their API wrappers.  The  second sends SMS headlines (using Twilio’s APIs) from my favorite news sources to my not-so-smart-phone (it’s an ancient model).

Both have their place in my work schedule.  Another idea that’s been taking root in this blog is crowdsourcing of public policy  and moving government documents to the Internet, accessible using open-standards protocols (RSS, et. al.)

Hold these thoughts.

Continue reading