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Citygram Launches in Research Triangle, NC

Research Triangle, NC – The Code for Cary brigade of Code for America has led the launch of the first regional instance of the civic app Citygram, Citygram Triangle, NC.

What is Citygram?

Citygram is a civic engagement app that takes open data and transforms it into timely, highly localized updates on topics of importance to citizens. It was developed during the 2014 Code for America fellowship program in Charlotte, N.C., and refined through a strong collaboration between the City of Charlotte and the Code for Charlotte brigade. It later won a Code for America Technology Award.

Citygram Triangle launched with the most requested open dataset, crime incident data. Citygram Triangle combines the stream of crime incident data from the Durham open data and Raleigh open data portals along with Cary crime incident data collected by Code for Cary through public records requests and processed on their brigade open data portal.

How Do I Subscribe to Citygram Triangle?

First, bring up the Citygram site in your browser and select “Research Triangle, NC” from the pull down menu of “your city” (https://www.citygram.org/)

Citygram Triangle NC Registration

  1. Select the data stream that you want to be notified of. As of now this is only crime incident data, but additional data streams will be added soon by the Triangle Code for America Brigades.
  2. Enter your address.
  3. Select the city where you live. Note, this step is only to resolve your address. It will not limit your access of data to the city you have selected. If you live on the boundary of an adjoining city, you will receive alerts from both cities.
  4. Select the notification diameter of your request. You will see some information appear below the map of how often you would have been notified in the past week which will give you an idea of how big you want your notification diameter
  5. Select if you want to be notified by text or e-mail.

A very simple process! You will be notified as data is updated in the triangle area open data portals.

What about crime incident data from Apex, Chapel Hill, Morrisville, Wake Forest, etc? When will you be able to be notified of activity in these parts of the Triangle? The answer is that Citygram can only alert you to information that is streamed into the app from open data portals. We would encourage you to discuss this with your elected officials to see if this can become a priority for your town.

Want to See More From Citygram Triangle?

The best way is to attend one or more of the Code for America brigade meetups in the Triangle and get involved. There are brigades in Cary, Durham and Raleigh and one of our ongoing projects will be to add additional datasets to Citygram Triangle.

If you don’t live in the Triangle, please look at joining a brigade nearer to you. There are existing brigades in Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro, and newly forming brigades in Wilmington and Winston-Salem.

Previous Tech Tank Articles on Code for America and Open Data

Nina Hole's Fire Sculpture Cary NC 9224 from Flickr by bobistraveling

What is Art and How to Find It?

Cary, NC – The Code for Cary Brigade has started working with the Town of Cary Cultural Arts Department and the Cary Visual Art organization (CVA) to look at redeploying the Code for America Public Art Finder App.

Code fro America Public Art Finder AppAt the brigade meeting on February 10th, Denise Dickens, Public Art Coordinator for the Town of Cary and Shawnee Becker of CVA presented what was available in terms of information and existing on-line maps of public art in the Town. We then had a great discussion about what functionality the app should have. The delineation is that Code for Cary can provide an app and functionality but the Town/CVA needs to provide the content.

App Specification Creep?

An interesting part of the discussions were about what users of this app would expect to be able to discover with the app. The Town of Cary has a definition of public art to clarify scope of their activity but art sited before the Town’s Public Arts program started are not part of the town’s catalog.

Should the mural on the side of the Sorrell building be included? What about where art links to the history of the town, like the horse sculpture at SearStone? What about interesting architecture, folk art and historical sites? This is a slippery slope of specification to be sure!
Val Fox Mural from Waymarking.com

What Would You Expect as a User?

This is a very important question to ask in the development of any app, the market analysis, or as Steve Blank would say, “Get Out of the Building” and talk to your customers!

Here are some of the ideas we discussed. Feel free to add some of your own:

  • Only public art as defined by the Town
  • All public art, publicly or privately owned
  • Interesting or classic architecture
  • Folk art
  • Historical sites
  • Ability to ask for an item to be added to the app
  • Ability to engage in discussion about the art (ie. a forum)

Leave your ideas in the comments below this article.

Join the Public Art Finder App Team

If you want to help out with this new and exciting project, please attend any of the upcoming Code for Cary meetings. Code for Cary meets every other Tuesday night at the Cary Innovation Center in the 2nd floor conference room. All are welcome to attend and participate, you do not have to be a coder!

Approximately 30 minutes before the meetings pizza and beer is available courtesy of the generous support from the Code for America national organization. The brigade asks all attendees to sign up on their meetup group so sufficient food can be ordered in advance of the meetings.

Previous Articles on Code for Cary


Disclosure – Tech Tank supports the Code for Cary Brigade with space, leadership and logistical support

Nina Hole’s Fire Sculpture Cary NC 9224 from Flickr by bobistraveling

Val Fox Mural from Waymarking.com

cary-bike-hike-app-review

TechTank Review – Cary Bike & Hike App

Cary, NC – On January 12, 2015, the Town of Cary released a new municipal mobile application, the Cary Bike & Hike App. Technology Tank undertook a survey to get user feedback on the new app. Read more

Appy Hour - A DOit Apps Event - From Lenovo

Appy Hour – by Lenovo

Morrisville, NC – A new tech event has come to our attention: Appy Hour – A DOit Apps Event – by Lenovo. The event will be in a week on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM, so don’t delay adding this to your calendar!

What is Appy Hour?

Tantalyzing technology. Incredible networking. Brilliant speakers. Tasty food. Amazing apps. And cold, craft beer on tap.

We’ve assembled a line-up of some of our region’s most brilliant scientists, developers and thinkers.

Get a taste for some of the coolest applications in the area.

The team of Erin Monday and Will Hardison will be the co-emcees for this event. If you have seen them at the RTP180 events, you will want to go for their performance alone!

Appy Hour Details

  • What? Appy Hour – A DOit Apps Event – by Lenovo
  • Where? Lenovo Building 8, 8001 Development Drive, Morrisville, NC 27560
  • When? Wednesday, January 21, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM (EST) [You’re invited to pop in and browse right after work (5:00-6:00)]
  • Why? Tantalyzing technology. Incredible networking. Brilliant speakers. Tasty food. Amazing apps. And cold, craft beer on tap.
  • Appy Hour Registration Site
Tech Tank: Looking for App Reviewers

Call for App Reviewers

Cary, NC – We are looking for a few volunteers to download a new municipal app, try it out and fill out a brief survey. Android and iPhone users…

Interested? E-mail Ian Henshaw


Photo by Christian Turkoanje – under CC BY-SA 3.0

How Libya’s Election Process is Better than the United States’s

Carrboro, NC – Libya’s efforts to establish a stable democracy have been marred by violence and the constant threat of government collapse since the ouster of General Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Despite the seemingly endless news about the country’s political chaos, Libya accomplished something the United States could not with healthcare.gov: the successful and smooth launch of a new technology platform.

Libya implemented a national voter registration by text messaging program that registered 1.5 million voters for June 25th’s elections. It is the first system of its kind in the world. Over 6 million text messages were sent to and from the system. What’s surprising is that nothing went wrong. An even more astonishing fact? It was an American firm, NC based Caktus Group, that developed the technology. Caktus developers created the technology in less than six months and for a fraction of the cost of healthcare.gov.

Libya SMS Voter Registration by Caktus Group
“The beauty of what we do as open source developers is that we can move very very quickly,” says Tobias McNulty, Caktus CEO. “Behind our team of four developers was the open source community, a global network of developers.”

Caktus developers, working closely with the Libyan government, a data security firm, a cellular network integrator, and well known technologist, Elliott Wilkes, and Middle East expert, Hunter Price, created a system that allowed voters and poll workers to register within seconds from any location in Libya, including their own homes. Registrants texted their national ID number and the code of their preferred voting location, then received a text confirmation.

During the pivotal June 25th elections widely considered to be Libya’s tipping point, Caktus staff were in Libya, making sure the voter registration system was again working smoothly. The voter registration databases were essential to how poll workers determined whether those that showed up could vote. Any hiccup in the system would be tantamount to disenfranchisement. News of violence dominated media coverage of the election, but this one aspect of the electoral process went off without a hitch.

“We were deeply aware of the responsibility we had to Libyan voters,” said McNulty, “We constantly tested the system at each step, including the capacity to handle hundreds of thousands of simultaneous text messages. Even the smallest amount of code was raked over the coals.”

Libya continues to face many incredible challenges as a doubtful world watches on. But amongst the seemingly unending bad news, there is at least one bright spot even the US cannot claim: you can text message your voter registration while drinking a cup of coffee.


Article and picture contributed by Caktus Group. Caktus began in 2007 in Carrboro’s Creative Co-working space. It has since grown to the point that they have purchased and are currently refurbishing a building in downtown Durham.

Code for America and Yelp collaborate on LIVES Open Data Standard

LIVES – Open Data Standard

Raleigh, NC – Wake County is one of four early adopters of the LIVES data standard – an open data standard which allows municipalities to publish restaurant inspection information that can be consumed by apps like Yelp.

Why Do We Need Data Standards?

We are surrounded by data. Our municipalities collect and store huge amounts of data. So the question is not if we have data, but how is it cataloged and stored. Take a street address for instance. If one municipality lists a street name as “StreetName” and another lists it as “RoadName” in a data file header, we have the beginnings of an interoperability problem. (This is a simple example of differences in the naming, or the ‘metadata’, of a data file. Metadata is a big subject area which will be a future topic for the Journal).

As a person looking at the data titles, we are smart enough to equate both of these titles as being the same thing, but to a machine reading the data, we have a readability problem as the program most likely will not know the similarity of “StreetName” or “RoadName”. So an app that was built to consume data in one municipality might not work in another municipality if the titles, or metadata, are not consistent in some way.

Just think of electric vehicles. If each municipality has a different physical connection to charge a vehicle, no one would think of making an electric vehicle. Standards in data are as important as standards for our consumer items. We want our municipalities to store data in a uniform way for people to access so that they will be able to provide services that are useful to us.

The LIVES Data Standard

In 2013 Code for America made restaurant inspection data readily available to diners — by putting it on Yelp. Working with both government staff and the Yelp team, Code for America created a standardized format for this data, called LIVES.

Developed in collaboration with the City of San Francisco and Yelp, the Local Inspector Value-entry Specification (LIVES) is an open data standard which allows municipalities to publish restaurant inspection information to Yelp or any other website.

Wake County as an Early Adopter

To be continued…


Quotes about LIVES from the Code for America Website

JouleBug Logo

JouleBug Improves Sustainability for Communities

Cary, NC – I first heard of JouleBug in November 2012 at the Entrepreneurs Lecture Series held by the NC State Entrepreneurship Initiative. Grant Williard was giving his advice on the most important things to do when you are standing up a new start-up company, and he showed off his new venture – JouleBug.

What is JouleBug?

JouleBug is a playful mobile app that encourages you to improve your sustainability habits at home, work, and play. By competing with your Facebook and Twitter friends to earn badges and pins, you can lower energy bills, reduce waste, and make a big impact on the planet.

JouleBug is a free app available in the Apple App Store and in the Google Play Store. Communities subscribe and pay for service to get their citizens involved in sustainability activities.

130821 JouleBug badge RaleighJouleBug Adoption in the Triangle

In October 2012, Raleigh partnered with JouleBug and the custom “Sustainable Raleigh” badge was released making Raleigh the first municipality in the nation with a City badge  (More details are in the Raleigh Press Release). The JouleBug Sustainable Raleigh badge is available to users who earn enough points and pins by accomplishing various tasks unique to Raleigh such as:

  • Downtown Walkaround – Complete the Downtown Raleigh Sustainability Walking Tour
  • Raleigh Rocket – Ride an R-Line bus
  • Juice Box – Use a Raleigh electric vehicle charging station
  • Solar Squisher – Use a BigBelly solar recycle station
  • The City of Spokes – Exercise along one of the City’s sustainable parks or greenways
  • Hometown Hero – Volunteer eight hours of community service within the City

130821 JouleBug badgeToday, the Town of Cary announced a partnership with JouleBug with an exclusive “Cary It Green” badge which highlights conservation activities and programs offered by the Town of Cary (More details are in the Cary Press Release). The release of the mobile app to convey sustainable practices in Cary comes on the heels of the Town’s recently expanded Cary It Green Facebook page. The JouleBug “Cary It Green” badge is available to users who earn enough points and pins by accomplishing various tasks unique to Cary such as:

  • Trash to Treasure – Donate an item instead of throwing it away
  • Aquastar – Log into your online Aquastar account
  • Spruce It Up – Volunteer for a green volunteer project
  • Park Place – Walk or bike a Cary greenway

What Powers JouleBug? Competition

In May 3, 2013, WRAL ran a story on the JouleBug adoption in Raleigh. John Williard, the JouleBug Creative Director stated “We found that people are more than 10 times more engaged when they’re actively playing and competing with each other.”

Raleigh ran a competition with the winner will receiving prize worth $200. Employees at I-Cubed, a software engineering firm on Centennial Campus in Raleigh, who have been using the app and competing with each other stated that the JouleBug app has provided “the little bit of motivation that you need [to participate in sustainable activities]”

What Do You Think?

  • What do you think about JouleBug? Will you download the app?
  • Is competition or ‘gamification’ required to get people to participate in sustainable activities?
  • What other activities do you think need to be added to the badges? What ideas do you have for new badges?
RGreenway Image

RGreenway Expands to Include Cary

Cary, NC – There is good news today for everyone in the Triangle. The RGreenway App has been updated to include all of the 68-miles of greenways in Cary.

Previous to today only the Raleigh greenways were shown and the Raleigh boundaries were like the end of the word for greenway users. Now the greenways are continuous on the App all over Raleigh and Cary. This is a great step forward. We look forward to all the Triangle area greenways being added over time.

RGreenway Development

RGreenway was the winning proposal of CityCamp Raleigh in 2012. The application is not a product of the City of Raleigh. It was created by the RGreenway team and was built using open data available through the official Raleigh Geoportal.

RGreenway is available for iPhone, iPad and Android. It’s free. Visit RGreenway and get the app for yourself. If you already have the RGreenway App, then you will need to update to version 2.0 to see the Cary greenways.

What is CityCamp?

From the CityCamp Website we find the following:

CityCamp is an unconference focused on innovation for municipal governments and community organizations. As an unconference, content for CityCamp is not programmed for a passive audience. Instead, content is created and organized by participants and coordinated by facilitators. Participants are expected to play active roles in sessions. This provides an excellent format for creative, open exchange geared toward action.

When is the next CityCamp in NC?

CityCamp Raleigh has recently become CityCamp NC to be more of a state wide initiative. The next CityCamp NC is scheduled for May 30-31, 2013.

If you have the skills and interest you will not want to miss the upcoming CityCamp NC so register today. Who knows what new cool Apps will come out of CityCamp this Year!