As part of an initiative to improve the transparency and accountability of New York City's government, the NYC DataMine was established in 2009. At the time of this writing, the DataMine contains 217 different data sets, which are constantly being updated by various government agencies and organizations. The sets, which range from lists of all the city's parking facilities and laundry facilities and sidewalk cafes to population projections by borough through 2030, can be used for much more than monitoring taxpayer's dollars. In addition to keeping the city's public employees in check, the facts and figures stored on the website can be repurposed to make life in the Big Apple easier.
When the DataMine was first announced, BoingBoing's David Pescovitz criticized the project, calling it a data dump. "[T]he NYC Data Mine may not be all it's cracked up to be," Pescovitz wrote before going on to quote from Anthony Townsend, a co-founder of NYC Wireless.
Browsing through the 100+ datasets posted this afternoon to the city's site, you see that about half are just boundary shapefiles easily downloaded or licensed through existing channels. The other half are a dog's breakfast of static datasets in every format from Excel to Access to SAS. Just to take one example, I can't wait to see what fascinating mashups stem from the historic release of the Department of Consumer Affairs' list of licensed electronic shops. Because what the world is really lacking is more information about the location of electronics retailers. What this Data Dump looks like is the collected attachments received in reponse to the poor bureaucrat who had to twist every department's arms for one dataset, so the city could say every department contributed.
But fascinating things have come out of the data.
For the second year in a row, the city of New York challenged software developers to use the data available to build "impactful applications" for smartphones. The prize -- $20,000 in cash -- was enough to bring in 57 submissions over a three-month period. Today, March 9, was the last day of the one-month public voting period. In addition to public voting, the submitted applications will be subjected to a panel of judges that includes tech heavyweights Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter and CEO of Square; and Chris Dixon (CEO of Hunch). And winning means a lot.
Last year, the popular choice winner, NYC Way, was such a hit that its developers quit their day jobs to run the company full-time. Endorsed by the mayor, NYC Way, an app that helps users unfamiliar with the city find nearby restrooms, hotels, tourist destinations and more, has been downloaded thousands of times in the iTunes Store.
Now that the voting period has closed, you can no longer see how many individual votes each application received from the public. Just an hour before the numbers were removed from the site, though, we pulled the top ten and present them here, in order, starting with the app that received the most votes. The accompanying descriptions come directly from the application's developer or team of developers.