A small bit of geekery for you, if you have the time. I’ve been messing around a little with the best way to map these guys… The map I posted the other day was built from a Google Fusion table, which seemed to be like using a really powerful laser beam to open a particularly tricky… envelope. I’d been playing around with Fusion tables for other projects, but the tool seems mismatched to the task, for now. So here is a link to the bodegas on franklin ave in plain old Google Maps. At this stage it seems both more useful and appropriate. Anyone with ideas or expertise is encouraged to share.
Also tonight, I attended the monthly Open NY Forum meetup; I’ve been hanging around these events for a few months now. I’m the guy sitting quietly, wearing a suit, listening to an assortment of computer geeks talk about hacking government. In a good way.
In my experience… along with money, right now government also lacks a surplus of young, ambitious, cutting-edge programmers. We heard from three fellows with Code for America who are among those with skills willing to contribute how they can. Click out to their site (and to Civic Commons) to learn more. I won’t go into the whole spiel because I won’t do it justice, but the folks who visited with us are working on building a library of open-source (i.e. public domain) software for governments to share. It’s potentially a transformative idea; cities should share best practices for tech the way they do for, say, environmental policy.
The other presentation was from two guys working on a project they call GovTogether, through which they hope to recruit a member of Congress to submit him-or-her-self to be ruled by Internet plebiscite. Their idea is to build a platform that will allow legislators to poll their constituents before every vote they cast, and agree to abide by the wishes of the majority every time. The hurdles are many; the signal-to-noise ratio of a national town meeting would seem to be infinitesimally small. The challenges we have today trying to help voters make educated choices would be multiplied dozens of times over, with real consequences. But the essential question (to me) is this: what quality of leader would choose to cast aside his own ideas or beliefs and make himself an empty vessel for the whims of a fickle public? Elections have consequences, or so they say.