End of` the Year ReportTeam ChicagoCode for America, 2012
Chicago, IllinoisOUR APPROACHThe city of Chicago came to Code for America in 2012 with a primary goal of making its 311 data publicly availableusing the Open311 standard. In addition to the core work on Open311, the Chicago team was also asked to build atleast one application that highlighted the benefits of the new data portal.As CfA fellows, we intended to do more than simply fulfill Chicago’s technical goals. We aimed to engage with andunderstand the needs of the communities of civic software enthusiasts (hackers), various community groups, localbusinesses, educators, and government employees. To truly understand how the software we were creating shouldwork and best benefit its users, we needed to connect with as many of these people as possible.Additionally, we wanted to use our work in Chicago as a platform for expanding about the Open311 standard and forgaining a better understanding of its national and global implications. We hoped to reach out to cities, companies,and organizations working on Open311 and civic data portal solutions to learn as much as possible about the space.We felt that, if we were truly going to make a difference in the Open311 community, our work in Chicago had to beinnovative. And the only way to innovate effectively is to truly understand the existing Open311 landscape.It’s worth nothing that, although the City of Chicago had very specific goals, our city partners John Tolva and Dan X.O’Neil were always incredibly supportive of our broader goal of improving the Open311 specification, in some way,for all cities.MEET OUR TEAMPOPULATION2,707,120SOME NICKNAMESChicagoland, The Windy City, The Second City, Chi-townWARDS50MAYORRahm EmanuelBen Sheldon Rob BrackettJohn TolvaChief Technology OfficerCity of ChicagoDan X. O’NeilExecutive DirectorSmart Chicago CollaborativeJesse Bounds Angel Kittiyachavalit
We had over 70 interviews during residency. We talked to city partners, community leaders, alderman,alderman staff, civic developers, non-profits, professors, and start-ups to learn more about Chicago and311.Based on the feedback from Alderman, we created the Daily Brief. It’s a web application that allows youto quickly see what is happening in your city right now based on Open311 service requests. It shows youhow many tickets are currently open, were opened yesterday, and were closed yesterday all on a mapand filterable. As we waited for data in Chicago, we deployed the application in Boston, Baltimore, andBloomington.In May, we performed user testing on the Daily Brief. We met with ten people including Alderman staff,civic partners, and civic developers. We received some really useful feedback and was able to tackle somelow hanging fruit to make the application better.dailybrief.311labs.org/baltimorePROJECTSTHE DAILY BRIEF
A webapp that pings and compiles data from ~30 cities’ Open311 endpoint servers. Used to advise Chicagoon how other cities have configured Open311 to expose SR types and provide a benchmark for citizenutilizationopen311status.herokuapp.comPROJECTSOPEN311 STATUSService Tracker gives citizens a Fedex-like view of their service requests, showing all the actions,department changes, and other work that has happened.servicetracker.cityofchicago.org311 SERVICE TRACKER
PROJECTSStill under development, this application brings together many of our learnings from previous applicationexperiments and the work done by fellows on the Open311 Dashboard in 2011. It’s most interesting featureis that it provides an easy way to compare two distinct political boundaries (i.e. Chicago wards) to see howthey stack up in terms of 311 service requests and delivery performance.311.fm311 FMWe realized that what pioneering organizations and citizens need is a platform to experiment with 311data and communicate with each other about their work. 311 Labs aims to encourage collaboration andexperimentation and start to tie together the work that folks have been doing in this space over the lastfew years. It also showcases applications a city can potentially use once they adopt Open311.311labs.org311 LABS
Used the city’s Oracle database to analyze historical requests to determine what public SR types hadfollow-ons, what types of follow-ons they were, and whether those follow-ons were of public or privatetypes. This was done to justify the need for accommodating follow-ons in Open311.Using the results of the public/private follow-on analysis, we created the first version of an amendedOpen311 specification that was capable of describing the follow-on activity that is often part of a servicerequest in Chicago. This amended specification (with some modifications) was eventually implemented bythe vendor in Chicago and powers the Chicago Service Tracker.Performed a survey of OpenGov community and other allies to request their input on what types ofrequests they would like to see made available through Open311. A brief report on its findings wasprovided to the City of Chicago.An implementation of Open311 with additions for solving the follow-on issue and querying by update time.Based on Chicago’s nightly backups of CSR.PROJECTSPUBLIC/PRIVATE FOLLOW-ON ANALYSISOPEN311 SPECIFICATION ADDITIONSOPEN311 SR TYPE SURVEYOPEN311 TEST SERVERSince the City of Chicago Open311 API contains some features and fields not currently available in anyother endpoint, the City requested that we create a page that highlights the differences and makes it easyfor developers to understand how to consume the API.dev.cityofchicago.orgCITY OF CHICAGO DEVELOPER RESOURCES (API DOCUMENTATION)
Utilizes Chicago-specific Open311 API extensions to create an interactive (and fun!) nearly-realtimedashboard for incoming and updated Service Requests.super-mayor.herokuapp.comPROJECTSSUPER MAYOR EMANUELbit.ly/TwIi2yWEEKLY RESIDENCY NEWSLETTERSWe kept a record of fellow interviews during the residency and shared our experiences with ~200 localChicagoans and allies.
During our residency in Feburary we hosted the Chicago Civic IdeaHack as part of Code for America’sCode Across America event. We had over 70 attendees come together for a full day of learning, meeting,planning and building. We kicked things off with four great presenters: Chicago CTO John Tolva, civicentrepreneur Joe Flesh, community leader Pastor Phil Jackson, and hackathon veteran Kate Eyler-Werve.Then we crowdsourced 150+ ways to make Chicago (more) awesome and broke off into working groups.At the end of the day, we shared some great projects that are off to a strong start: a G8 news aggregator,an improved bike crash browser, a Geek Prom, a nonprofit technology incubator, and a Public SchoolsProject to coordinate requests for school data...among many others.And we couldn’t have done it without Veronica Ludwig and our sponsors: Knight-Mozilla OpenNews,Excelerate Labs, TrainSignal, Mobile Citizen, Spartz Media, Venchure, Technori, Hackatopia, Accolade, 21stCentury Youth Project, Ji-V Hack, Busy Beaver Buttons, and Dragonfly Mandarin Restaurant.ideahackchicago.comEVENTSIDEAHACK
At the request of Brett Goldstein (CIO, City ofChicago) we did two separate brown bag lunchevents for the City of Chicago IT staff. We coveredtopics ranging from agile software developmentpractices and tools to programming languages likePython. These sessions were well received by theCity of Chicago staff and were a key part of the CIO’sinitiative to encourage his team to learn about andexplore new technologies.The Open Gov Chicago Meetup group invited us totalk to their members and get to know them. We hada panel where we talked about Code for Americain general and what we were doing with our time inChicago.We attended an after school class and gave a shortdemonstration of iPhone app creation. We promotedtechnology as a valid career path for inner city kidsto choose. Also, encouraged them to explore andanalyze civic tech and data and help build apps thatservice their communities (instead of just consumingapplications like facebook and foursquare).LUNCH AND LEARNSOPEN GOV MEETUPCOMMUNITY TECH EDUCATIONEVENTSShowing students how you can code things that matter.Packed house for our lunch and learn.
OUR CONTRIBUTIONS AND SUSTAINABILITYFellows were able to make significant contributions: both in technical applications (as described above),as well as enabling a platform for innovation both inside of City Hall and beyond.The primary contribution the fellows made was ensuring that Chicago’s Open311 implementation wouldbe accurate and comprehensive and a viable platform for technology innovation. A significant factorin the delays was the inadequacy of the vendor’s Open311 “drop-in solution” to enable the platform forinnovation the city desired. As a result of the fellows needs-finding and technical expertise, they wereable to identify the shortcomings of that drop-in solution early on and spent a significant portion ofthe fellowship working with both the city and the vendor to design an adequate implementation. Theresulting Open311 API ensures:1. Data Accuracy: the original solution would would have declared a significant portion of requests“closed” when in fact work was still ongoing. The fellows helped ensure the final implementation betterreflects the true status of a request.2. Data Comprehensiveness: Chicago’s Open311 implementation is able to show the multiple steps aservice request may take---especially as it moves between departments and crews, which is not part ofthe standard Open311 specification3. Core application support: Chicago’s official Open311 application, Service Tracker, is powered by theOpen311 API itself; this is unlike many cities that, despite embracing Open311, still run their applicationsusing private APIs and data connectors. Because the city is actually using Open311 internally (as opposedto just providing it as an external service), this should help ensure that Chicago’s Open311 API remainsaccurate, comprehensive and able to power independently build applications.