Steven Johnson on what NYC and other cites are learning from services like 311.
But the service also helps city leaders detect patterns that might otherwise have escaped notice. After the first survey of 311 complaints ranked excessive noise as the number one source of irritation among residents, the Bloomberg administration instituted a series of noise-abatement programs, going after the offenders whom callers complained about most often (that means you, Mister Softee). Similarly, clusters of public-drinking complaints in certain neighborhoods have led to crackdowns on illegal social clubs. Some of the discoveries have been subtle but brilliant. For example, officials now know that the first warm day of spring will bring a surge in use of the city's chlorofluorocarbon recycling programs. The connection is logical once you think about it: The hot weather inspires people to upgrade their air conditioners, and they don't want to just leave the old, Freon-filled units out on the street.
The 311 system has proved useful not just at detecting reliable patterns but also at providing insights when the normal patterns are disrupted. Clusters of calls about food-borne illness or sanitary problems from the same restaurant now trigger a rapid response from the city's health department.
Not discussed in the article is an assertion by my pal David that exclusive access to 311 data gives incumbent politicians -- like, say, Michael Bloomberg -- a distinct advantage when it comes to getting reelected. For instance, when campaigning on a neighborhood level, the incumbent can look at the 311 data for each neighborhood and tailor their message appropriately, e.g. promising to help combat noise in a neighborhood with lots of noise complaints or fix the streets in a neighborhood with lots of calls about potholes.
1. I recently upgraded the software that powers this site to the most recent version of MT 4. I'll miss my pimped out copy of MT 3.2 but I'm excited to play with some new-to-me MT 4 features. Between this and my new keyboard, I feel like I just started a new job. Huge 72 pt. THANKS to Six Apart Services né Apperceptive and especially kottke.org patron saint David Jacobs for the excellent support. (Oh, and the iMT plugin for quick iPhone access to MT? Awesome.)
2. Pagination! The front page is now just over a third shorter than it was mere minutes ago. You can continue reading previous entries by pointing your browsing mechanism to page 2 and page 3. That's one feature down, about 2000 more to go.
Over the past two weeks, David Jacobs, Anil Dash and I have attempted to reproduce (in some halting way) Jason Kottke, while the actual Jason Kottke was
in rehab on his honeymoon. The attempt, on my part at least, has been an abject failure. Or haven't you noticed all the crappy links with "GK" at the end of them? Go-kart magazines? What the hell?
Like most of the disasters I've had a hand in, I've got a theory that both explains what happened and exonerates me. Ducking responsibility sounds better if you put on academic airs about it.
The theory: There are two kinds of bloggers, referential and experiential. Kottke is one. I, now two weeks too late in realizing this, am another.
The referential blogger uses the link as his fundamental unit of currency, building posts around ideas and experiences spawned elsewhere: Look at this. Referential bloggers are reporters, delivering pointers to and snippets of information, insight or entertainment happening out there, on the Intraweb. They can, and do, add their own information, insight and entertainment to the links they unearth -- extrapolations, juxtapositions, even lengthy and personal anecdotes -- but the outward direction of their focus remains their distinguishing feature.
The experiential blogger is inwardly directed, drawing entries from personal experience and opinion: How about this. They are storytellers (and/or bores), drawing whatever they have to offer from their own perspective. They can, and do, add links to supporting or explanatory information, even unique and undercited external sources. But their motivation, their impetus, comes from a desire to supply narrative, not reference it.
There's nothing here to imply that one type of blogger is better than the other. There are literally thousands -- OK, hundreds... OK, at least a dozen -- of both kinds that are valuable additions to the on-going conversation/food-fight/furry-cuddle that is the Internet. My point is that Jason Kottke is a very, very good referential blogger and I am a very, very bad one. And I'm sure I wouldn't have trouble finding a link that expresses this sentiment (many, many times over, with varying degrees of vehemence), but I'd rather say it from my own experience:
Welcome back, Jason. You've been missed. -- GK
I'm going to be away for a couple of weeks, but my pal Greg Knauss is taking over posting some remaindered links while I'm gone, aided by special guests David Jacobs and perhaps even Anil Dash.
Greg was the very first guest blogger here on kottke.org (and perhaps the first guest blogger ever anywhere) back in March of 2000 when I went to SXSW and they didn't have wifi at the conference (nor did I have a laptop). Good times, back then.
When I get back, house on fire.
MC Hammer has posted a love letter to Barry Bonds on his weblog. "As you close in on the record, and the day of reckoning is at hand, there will be many attemps by the bloodhounds to shake you and force you to quit." David Jacobs thinks the fans and the media are being hypocritical about Bonds' situation.
David argues for more variation and serendipity in video games. "...games overcompensate for their lack of variance in game play with over-the-top psychedelic graphics and sound effects. This is not a new problem of course with Pac-man and Super Mario Brothers often held up as classic examples."