One of the big goals of the open data project is to get many citizens interested in different ways the data can be used. Many citizens lack the skills to code up an application and creating a website is intimidating, but they may have ideas that could improve the city or be useful to many citizens.
In the hopes of spurring more interest in the open data and getting those not tradition involved, well… involved, I’ve created an “Ideas for the Taking” page on the Vancouver Open Data wiki. I’ve seeded the page with some of the ideas I promised I would share at the Open Data Hackathon last week . Some use open data, others don’t. Mostly however, I hop they spurn others to think of what is possible and what interests them. (PS. If you are a reader and the wiki is too confusing, just email me your idea and I’ll add it to the wiki with (or without, if you prefer) you’re name attached.
So here are some ideas I’ve brainstormed:
1. Stolen Bike Tracker
Vancouver’s cycling community is huge, sadly however, the city is plagued by a serious problem: stolen bicycles. There is no solution to this problem but I think a well crafted app could help minimize the nuisance. I can imagine an app or website in which you take a photo of your bike and upload it along with some identifying information(like the serial number) to a website. The picture stays hidden, however, if your bike gets tragically stolen you load up the apps and press the “my bike was stolen button.” This marks the physical place where your bike was stolen and activates your bike photo and marks it as stolen. Now cyclists, bike shop owners and the police can check bikes to see if they are stolen before buying them (or return them to their owner if they are recovered). In addition, a street map of bike theft would also be created. This could be particularly relevant since I suspect a great deal of bike theft is not reported. Finally, for those worried about privacy, I could imagine the app using a Craigslist style contact system that would preserve the anonymity of the original owner.
2. A Downtown East Side Landlord wiki
There are a few data sets that might allow for someone to create a geo-wiki of the DTES. I think it would be interesting to have a wiki that – on a building by building level – outlined who owned which residential buildings, what they charged in rent, a list of the room amenities and comments about the property’s management. It might also be interesting to enable photos to be posted so people can show the living conditions. Such a wiki might give the public (and prospective renters) a window into the deplorable conditions and poor practices of the worst offenders. It might also help City Staff deploy resources for investigating code violations and other questionable practices.
Obviously, I think an Everyblock app for Vancouver would be great. The one new layer I’d love to see added to it is a charity button. With this button you would see what charities are operating on the block/area you are standing on. This is harder to imagine realizing, but cooler still would be a button that would allow you to then donate to that charity.
4. Burrard Bridge Trial Website
While not located on the Open Data Portal, the city has been releasing weekly data sets on vehicle, pedestrian and cycle trip across the Burrard Bridge Trial on the Burrard Trial blog. The data is not particularly well organized (you’d have to scrape it and its only granular to the 24hr time block – so no hour by hour data sets) but it is a start. I’d be fascinating to have a site that does a deeper analysis of the data and maybe shows it in a more interesting format. Maybe a discussion on carbon emissions reduced… still more interesting would be an analysis of bicycle accidents at present versus before the trial (data that is, sadly, not obviously available).
5. City Services vs. Land Value Mashup
It would be interesting to see what impact city services have on land values. I’m not sure if land value data is available (anyone know?) but mashing it up against the location of parks, community centres, schools, firehalls, and other city amenities would be interesting. While potentially interesting to prospective home owners (maybe a real estate agency should develop – or pay to develop – this app) I think it might also be of interest to the electorate and politicians.
One last one: A Library-Amazon Greasemonkey script
A Library-Amazon Greasemonkey search script allows a user to see if a book being displayed on an Amazon.ca website is available in the Vancouver Public Library. This has two benefits. First, it is WAY easier to find books on the Amazon site then the library site, so you can leverage Amazon’s search engine to find books (or book recommendations) at the VPL. Second, it’s a great way to keep the book budget in check!
The Vancouver Public Library has said that it will share access to its database that would allow such an app to work. I believe I have the email address for the relevant person somewhere on my computer who can make this happen. (I can get the contact info for the right person if someone nudges me.) Better still the necessary Greasemonkey script is already available (scripts exist for Palo Alto, Seattle and Ottawa), it would be great if someone tweaked the script so it worked with the VPL.
Of course, I’m hoping that others are already hatching plans about how they’d like to use the city’s data to create something they feel passionate about. And remember, if there is an app you’d like to create but the data set isn’t available – take the Open Data survey to let your voice be heard! If any of these ideas interest you, go for it. If I can help in any way, let me know, I’m keen to contribute.