Friday, May 30, 2008

Your Mapper - NetSquared Conference Report (Part 1)

We just got back from the NetSquared N2Y3 Conference in San Jose and had an incredible experience meeting some extraordinary people. The depth and breadth of the projects in the competition was amazing and we were honored to be part of it all. Your Mapper did not win the top prize, which went to a terrific project called Ushahidi, which maps violence though cell phone reports in Kenya.

I'll post a more detailed and full report of the conference details, attendees, and connections we made on Monday. For now, you can read about it all with NetSquared's coverage.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Your Mapper Project Interview by Ted Ko

Ted Ko, my NetSquared Project Lead, interviewed me about Your Mapper and its social impact.
Full Project Interview

Some of the questions included:
  • What're the top 3 social benefits you see resulting from the Your Mapper project?
  • Do you feel that this project is the kind of thing where people begin to benefit immediately or it needs to reach a certain scale or tipping point before it makes a real difference to people?
  • What would you say are the top 3 reasons why this project is going to succeed?
  • How will this project contribute to the "tech for social benefit" space?
  • How will it help other developers and non-profits use the latest tech for positive impact?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Open Municipal Geodata Standard Organization Website

I'd like to announce a new website that I'm starting up called The Open Municipal Geodata Standard Organization Website, or OMG Standard for short, at The idea behind it is to have an open forum to discuss and collaborate on how to involve governments to effectively release their public data to communities.

The goals at the moment are to:
1 create an open standard for the structuring of municipal data
2 convince governments it's in their best interest to make the data easily available
3 provide tools to let this happen efficiently

I've been thinking about this for a while but was spurred into action by the discovery of a few similar pushes on the internet, the participation in the NetSquared contest, and by Ben Peskoe, a fellow entrepreneur who coined the name "Open Municipal Geodata Standard." Metro Mapper is based on the idea of collecting public data, turning it into a map, publishing the map online, and allowing citizens to view, interact with, and share the data in an appealing way. One major difficulty is in the manner in which the data is obtained.

Some municipal datasets are available online, but this is pretty rare. Even if they available online, the format is difficult to deal with, the data is incomplete, or it's hard to make sense of the data once you have it. Most of the time though, the data is locked up in an old internal database that only one expert person can get to, and finding that person can be difficult. Usually that involves mailing some sort of non-electronic information request, which may or may not be granted, and even it if it is granted, it could take a long time due to limited resource and other priorities. Then you have the issue of getting updates later.

It's not that municipal governments don't want to get the data out to the public, it's more a matter of time, limited staff, budget cuts, and larger priorities. Most people working in the public sector are acutely aware of the problems with their system, but don't know how or can't change it even though they would like to.

So what's the ideal solution? I think it's to help out governments by telling them what would be the biggest benefit to their citizens, giving them a road map for execution, helping them execute, and showing how it can reduce costs in the long run and benefit the community. The result would be digital data feeds on government websites that would contain downloadable information for free.

Luckily some smart people have already started working on this problem. Illinois has an organization called Illinois Data Exchange Affiliates (IDEA) that has similar goals and has had some success. The Sunlight Foundation works to create government transparency and recently had a very successful 'Open Government Working Group' with Google and Yahoo where they produced 8 Principles of Open Data. Sunlight also created to create the Transparency in Government Act of 2008 which aims to bring more national government information online. Every Block (a journalistic project like Metro Mapper) is also a part of this movement and has an interesting blog post about the topic. There is also an active Open Government Google Group which discusses some of these issues. And seeks to advance the public's right to know and to reduce secrecy in government.

Where does the OMG Standard fit in? I think it could work in conjunction with some of the above organizations, but with a more specific national goal of helping state and municipal governments publish their public data in a certain format on their websites. Obviously this would benefit Metro Mapper, which in turn would benefit the community. But I also think it is a benefit to the local governments.

For now, think about these issues and start a discussion in the comments below. Soon I'll be putting up a starting point on the OMG Standard website, where we can collaborate on these issues, and you can become a member.

We Have a Winner on the Logo Contest

I've just awarded the prize to for his submission of logo #158 . Congrats! Thanks to everyone who talked with me or sent me messages about the designs they liked. It was really helpful to get some community feedback for this.

His logo won because of some very simple ideas that he came up with that lent themselves well to the site. One is the use of the bendy Y person in a previous design, and the use of the little smile in the winning design. Also the faded blast radius target element is really great for showing importance to things that are close to the user, without looking too much like a bullseye. I'll hopefully work with him to finalize the design into a finished logo for the site.

I'd like to thank the other designers that participated. In addition to giving credit to on the final site for his logo, I'd also like to credit on the site some of the other designers for some great ideas, especially helio brazil, wired iris, pacmanb, netso, and year_ago_today. Some parts of them might be turned into icons on the site even though they are not in the logo.

Thanks to 99designs for a great site and service. I was really amazed at the number of submissions and the quality of the designer's work. It made it difficult to make a final decision, that's for sure!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Logo Contest Over - Decision Today

The logo contest is over for our new national site, Your Mapper. Take a look at the entries and let us know what you think here.

Although we have to pick just one, the final logo might incorporate some of the elements or colors of the other logos, so feel free to let us know how you would 'mix and match' things.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Contest: Design Our New Logo and Win $150!

A Crowdsource Design Site for a Crowdsource Mapping Site Logo

For the Your Mapper project, we decided to use an existing site to "crowdsource" the design of our logo. This means that we are starting up a paid contest to determine our logo. Anyone can contribute a design for free, everyone can vote for and comment on the designs, and to the winner goes $150 in cash!

Since our new site and service, Your Mapper, will be a community contribution data driven site, it's only fitting that we put our money where our mouth is an let the community decide on our new logo. We are using a site called 99Designs for the contest, since it has a great community of talented designers, and they've created some very interesting logos quickly.

Contest Link:

We need the logo quickly, so the contest is only on for 3 days, and is over this Friday afternoon. For the next three days, people will be submitting designs and we will be commenting on and grading them along with the rest of the community. Everyone can build upon existing ideas and come up with something terrific.

I especially welcome everyone in the Louisville and Kentucky areas to submit their ideas, or at least vote and comment on what is submitted. And if you are outside the area, please participate as well - it's open to everyone.

To the contest winner we will give $150, credit on the new site, and a web link back to the designer's web page.

We see this as another great new media experiment (like our Twitter experiment) and hope that it works out for everyone. Get started now!