Sometimes - just sometimes - there are people working in web development who do it right.
One of the big challenges about merging tech and social good is making open data easily accessible and readable. Very few of us (myself included) are able to create web interfaces that allow us to digest information. But much like the beloved android from Star Trek: The Next Generation, two services are helping to build their communities by placing data in a very easy-to-use context. (With increasing awareness around issues of digital literacy, these sites are sorely needed steps in the right direction).
The first is actually a project involving David Eads of Free Geek Chicago. The site - http://crime.chicagotribune.com - aggregates a variety of data into a clickable map showing crime rates in various Chicago neighborhoods. It's a very user friendly resource, allowing people to determine the relative safety of their neighborhoods. It's a nice way for people to access publicly available data in a nice, easy-to-use manner.
However, one of the best resources to use (both in Chicago and for various other cities) is EveryBlock.com. Although initially it started as an aggregator for local data, it's morphed into a Yelp-like forum. Users can ask questions, find out about neighborhood happenings, and really provide some great information in a very easy-to-use context. (On a personal level, I have used this for both professional and personal reasons).
But there's one things that web-based services like these provide: they help community residents boldly go where few have gone before - exploring the final frontier of community data.
Interested in some upcoming events? Please join me at the September 11th Net Tuesday meeting as well as the September 20th Chicago Geek Breakfast. Otherwise, please feel free to contact me via LinkedIn or my web site's contact page.
Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!