Tag Archives: iPhone

Municipal Vaporware: Why NYC's Data Mine is A Data Dump

This morning, Mayor Mike Bloomberg unveiled New York City’s long-awaited Big Apps contest. Big Apps seeks to promote the Internet industry in the Big Apple (it’s sponsored by the New York City Economic Development Corporation) and make local government more transparent.

I’ve been following the evolution of open data initiatives at the municipal level for about a year now, and was really hoping that New York was going to set the bar for future efforts across the country. It doesn’t. In fact it’s hard to understand why some notable local tech superstars like investors Fred Wilson and John Borthwick would sign on to such a lame effort.

First of all, the prize structure doesn’t make sense. First prize is $5,000 and dinner with Bloomie himself. No commitment to fund, adopt, promote or license the app for citywide use. People that build city apps want to engage the public and the investor community, not the city’s political elite. I bet they’d rather have dinner with Andrew Raisej.

Second, despite the fact that the project is primarily aimed at stimulating new business development (it’s coming from the econ dev folks) the rules require all entrants to grant the city a one-year license to distribute the app freely. So anyone thinking of building a paid iPhone app, you’re shit out of luck.

Finally, and most importantly, the NYC Data Mine that is supposed to be the raw materials for these apps, is more of an NYC Data Dump than anything else. Browsing through the 100+ datasets posted this afternoon to the city’s site, you see that about half are just boundary shapefiles easily downloaded or licensed through existing channels. The other half are a dog’s breakfast of static datasets (New! Updated monthly!) in every format from Excel to Access to (gag!) SAS. Hello, people, its 2009. API+XML FTW! Just to take one example, I can’t wait to see what fascinating mashups stem from the historic release of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ list of licensed electronic shops. Because what the world is really lacking is more information about the location of electronics retailers. What this Data Dump looks like is the collected attachments received in reponse to the poor bureaucrat who had to twist every department’s arms for one dataset, so the city could say every department contributed.

As someone who’s spent time brainstorming with government agencies about open data ecosystems, I’m saddened to see that the city has engineered this program for maximum political impact, minimal risk and mediocre innovation. It’s municipal vaporware.

p.s. Guys, you forgot to include the website URL in your press release.

p.p.s The one cool thing they did was used Challenge Post to host the site. Thanks BetaWorks!

Iphone, Google Latitude and a row boat

Publishing your exact location regularly to everyone on the Internet? To some it sounds like a Orwellian nightmare. But this is exactly what Google Latitude allows you to do. Google can grab GPS location data from your mobile phone and it gives you the option of publishing your location at the city level or your exact GPS derived location (if your device supports location that is). You can share your location among a trusted group of friends or it offers you a snippet of code to link to a map you can integrate into a website or blog post. Not to mention it can update your Google Talk status with your location.

I can’t speak for other devices but on the Iphone there is no client required. The Safari web browser for the Iphone in version 3.0 supports the W3C Location API. So all you need to do is enroll your account and surf to http://www.google.com/latitude/. The Iphone OS will ask you if you wish to share your location, if you accept Latitude updates it’s database with your current location. That simple really. The Latitude interface will also show the location of any friends that have elected to share their location with you.

On Sunday I am participating in a fundraiser where I am going to row a 25 foot wooden boat around the island of Manhattan. (if you want to help support youth development in the South Bronx visit my pledge site http://rockingmanhattan.kintera.org/dustintodd). I thought it would be neat to use the Latitude public location badge functionality to show our progress through our 28 mile journey. Latitude offers an almost perfect solution for this. If you visit the Latitude public badge page you can enable the public badge feature (the default is disable.. wise choice) and offers a snippet of HTML code that allows you to include the map with your location displayed on any website or BLOG.

I have included the HTML in this post hopefully when you view this post the map will show my current location. Check back on Sunday the 4th to see us rowing around Manhattan.

Android Will Open the Mobile Space in 2008

Google’s Android mobile OS is an interesting new technology that will open up the mobile space in 2008. Bill Sobel blogged about the platform in conjunction with our Jan 17th panel “Wireless, Wimax, Mobile and Beyond: A Look at the Future Communications“.

Android will enable a multitude of new mobile applications. Along with the iPhone’s soon to be released open platform, which will enable anyone to build software for the phone, I expect 2008 to bring a number of new types of apps. Yes, we’ll see some tie-ins to OpenSocial and other social network applications, as well as some better implementations of some existing applications like chat, location, and messaging. But we’re also likely to see applications that never existed in a mobile context, because developers will finally be able to create software for handsets just like they create software on desktops.

One of the important aspects of the handset space, which people don’t seem to be talking about, is how its fundamentally different from computing on the desktop. This distinction wasn’t really able to be developed because thus far we’ve had anemic platforms (like JavaME) that restricted what developers could do because of limited APIs. With Android and with the iPhone, such restrictions go away because the OS and API are essentially the same as their desktop counterparts.

The really exciting and innovative applications will only come about if the hardware supports it. With the iPhone, you really have both an OS and a handset that remove the traditional limitations of mobile platforms, and we’re already seeing some novel applications being built. With the iPhone’s official APIs, many more developers will build new types of apps. But with Android, thus far we’ve only seen the traditional phone interfaces (QWERTY keypad and small screen). For Android to really succeed, it will need better and less restrictive hardware as well. Apple caused developers and users to rethink how they interact with a mobile computing device — its not really a phone, but a pocketable computer that can make calls. Android will need to get similar handsets in order to remove the traditional hardware limitations that have restricted phones up until now.