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A Look Inside: Code for America Cary

Cary, NC – What is civic hacking for social good? Who or what is Code for America?

Lets take a look at what is going on with the Code for America Cary Brigade and maybe you will find out. (Full disclosure, I am an organizer and member of the Cary Brigade)

The Cary Brigade formed in May 2013 as a development of the Cary Technology Task Force, the subsequently formed Technology Tank, the first Cary Open Data Day and the support of the vibrant Raleigh Brigade of Code for America. The Cary Brigade has decided to start with visualizing commercial permit data in the town of Cary.

Code for America aims to improve the relationships between citizens and government. We help governments restructure to create low-risk settings for innovation, engage citizens to create better services, and support ongoing competition in the govtech marketplace.

Tuesday, July 23 was the third meeting of the brigade (we meet monthly). On May 24, 2013 we received commercial permit data files from Cary in response to a public records request from member Robert Campbell. We received 9 data files most likely from a relational database.

At our June meeting, the Google AppEngine was discussed as a way to develop the ‘back-end’ of the application. The first issue we encountered was that the file with the property locations had all of the geo-locations zeroed out, so an effort was made to geolocate all of the 79,000+ records (with a method that still has not been disclosed…) Since then, there were 2 different efforts to house and use this geocoded information:

Socrata

With the help of Reid Serozi, just hired by Socrata, The Cary Brigade was offered a Socrata Community Data Platform.  Here is what we were able to do in an hour with the Socrata platform:

Property Data set on Socrata

Property Data set on Socrata

Socrata Visualization - Heat Map of Cary Property Data

Socrata Visualization – Heat Map of Cary Property Data

Socrata Visualization - Point Map of Cary Property Data

Socrata Visualization – Point Map of Cary Property Data

During the meeting, Reid showed us how the point map could be accessed and displayed on his smart phone.

Parse.com

Brandon Smith took another route and used Parse as his data repository and with some awesome code was able to provide a simulated app from the data (we did not ask how long this took…):

Parse data file

Parse data file

Brandon Smith simulated app - Properties nearest to my Location

Brandon Smith simulated app – Properties nearest to my Location

Brandon Smith simulated app - Properties in my Neighborhood

Brandon Smith simulated app – Properties in my Neighborhood

Where do we go from here?

There is more investigation into the data, as we are not sure that we have the information that would allow the app to answer a compelling question. More data scrubbing, another public data request(?) and more investigation into the front-end display of the information.

If you are interested, please join us. You can contact Ian Henshaw for more information.

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