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Knight-Mozilla Fellows take on era of ‘no excuses,’ public data demands


Great article from the Knight Foundation on the work that Knight-Mozilla Fellows are doing on public data analysis – and making that data accessible and understandable for everyone.

In newsrooms around the globe, data experts are embracing daily challenges from their ever-demanding, increasingly info-savvy audience.

The third class of Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Fellows is developing solutions to these demands in seven newsrooms: Internews in Kenya, La Nacion, The New York Times,  ProPublica, The Texas Tribune and The Washington Post. Each fellow creates tools that empower journalists and citizens to access complicated relationships hidden in the untouched stacks of data and research. Mozilla initiated the program in 2010, and Knight Foundation has supported it since 2011.

Read more:

Open Data and the World Cup


For the hybrid World Cup/Open Data fans, Socrata has a fun graphic up on the number of injuries and time spent writhing on the ground per team.

To see the visualization, click here:

And for the original WSJ article that prompted the chart:

On EveryBlock: Popular Posts of the Week


It’s been a great week for us, and hopefully for you all as well! Here are some of the top conversations happening on EveryBlock. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Acts of Kindness: Feral Cat Colonies

Those Pesky Phone Books 

Powered by People: Why Bike?

Rogers Park in Perspective

The Best Fish and Chips in the City

A Couch in the Middle of a Public Park? 


Drawing Your Own EveryBlock Map


Along with being able to follow neighborhoods, wards, zip codes, and specific streets, you can draw your own custom-location map in EveryBlock. So if you work in Logan Square, live in Humbolt Park and visit two blocks in Bucktown on the weekends, you can draw an all-encompassing map yourself, rather than following each area individually (although you can do that too, if you like). So if you want to make a map of the real ChinatownWestUkraKinzieNobleTown, or something completely random, you can. Just make sure the boundaries of your map don’t overlap.

Neighborhoods, wards, and streets can change or evolve over time. So if you find yourself spending more time in an area that goes beyond traditional boundaries, try drawing some up for yourself. As always, you’ll see neighbor messages, media mentions, and public data for the locations you’ve outlined. To see a list of maps that users have already created, click here. If you want to try drawing one for yourself, have at it.

EB Draw Map

Staying Civil on EveryBlock


Along with going off-topic and trolling, another issue that arises on EveryBlock is that even if the content of a comment is on-topic, a negative tone is just as alienating. Someone could post a logical answer to a query, or give sound information, but if that person comes off as rude or brusque, then readers might not even notice that they, in fact, answered the question. Good “netiquette” is an evolving process, but the main point is that, as with any dialogue, pay attention to not only what you say, but how you say it.

There’s an old, yet relevant New York Times op-ed on the power of internet comments. Check it out here:

We hope that conversations on EveryBlock will continue to help improve neighborhoods through the spread and discussion of local information. But remember to stay on-topic and stay civil. For more information on how to post, please visit our Comment Policy.

The Negative Effects of Trolling


No matter what type of thread, some EveryBlock (and indeed, internet) users will deliberately try to stir up conflict by writing something off-topic or offensive. These types of users are commonly referred to as “trolls”.

Recently, Slate published an article on Internet Trolling. Trolling not only throws threads off-topic, but diminishes the value of the discussion and antagonizes those who want to make meaningful contributions. We try our best to stay out discussions, and only intervene in the event that posts contain personal attacks or have nothing of value to add.

Along with our own moderation, we look to dedicated EveryBlock users to help us flag those types of users either by using the Unneighborly button, or sending us Feedback.

Off-topic Posts on EveryBlock


One of the quickest ways to derail a thread on EveryBlock is to post something off-topic. Your neighbors are having a discussion on how a new grocery store will impact the community, and someone posts about their groceries, but also their heating bill, which causes the discussion to morph away from the original topic and on to the subject of heating, weather, and whatever else might arise.

Just like in-person conversations, it’s easy for people to get sidetracked. Sometimes it’s because someone made a joke, or says something that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the dialogue, or attacks a user rather than address the topic of discussion. We encourage conversations that are relevant to your neighborhoods, and hope that those conversations help you build meaningful local connections within the community.

When posting on EveryBlock, please try to keep the discussions on-topic, and, as always, let us know if you have any feedback on ways to help moderate the site.

Embracing change: Five key lessons from innovative community foundations


From the Knight Foundation:


Above from left to right: Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation; Kelly Ryan, CEO of Incourage Community Foundation;  Chris J. Daggett, president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; and Emmett Carson, CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Photo credit: Knight Foundation on Flickr.

As technology continues shaking up the traditional media landscape, it’s leaving gaps and opportunities for community organizations to step in to fill information needs. But legacy news organizations haven’t been alone in facing major shifts. The disruption has affected foundations, too, forcing change and adaptation over the last decade.

Unneighborly Button on EveryBlock


The Unneighborly button allows EveryBlock users to flag posts or comments that violate the Community Guidelines, and notifies our content moderation team. The content moderation team looks at the post and decides whether it’s necessary to send a warning, delete the post, or suspend/ban the user. The user’s prior behavior (i.e., multiple unneighborlies) is also considered.

Examples of posts that may warrant an Unneighborly flag are:

  • Unsolicited advertisements or self promotion of for-profit businesses

  • Posts that contain profanity

  • Personal attacks towards other users

  • Sharing others’ private information without their consent

  • Copyright violations and Libel

However, you should not flag a comment or post as unneighborly if you simply disagree with the user’s opinion. Instead, post a comment that says you disagree, or send a private message the user. And you can always “Mute” a user, which will hide their posts and comments from your timeline and email digest.

Unneighborly: [User Name] is awful.

Not-Unneighborly: That pizza place down the street is awful.

Unneighborly: Profanity

Not-Unneighborly: Sarcasm

Please continue to use Unneighborly to help us moderate the content on EveryBlock, but remember that the first course of action, if possible, is to keep the dialogue going.

You may also notice that certain comments on the site turn pink, rather than the normal grey color. This indicates that multiple users have found a post Unneighborly. However, we again encourage you, if you’re thinking of voting a comment Unneighborly, to really think about whether or not the post is violating the community guidelines, or if you just have a grudge or difference of opinion with the user in question. If the latter is true, then either Mute the user or continue the discussion.

We’d like your input – please let us know via our Feedback Form if you think a seperate “disagree” button should be created for posts that don’t necessarily violate the terms of service, but you disagree with.

Contract opportunity: Web/iOS developer at EveryBlock


We’re looking to hire a Web/iOS developer to a six-month contract to join our small and effective development team at EveryBlock. This is your chance to work on a wide variety of interesting problems, helping improve a great product with a passionate and growing user base. You should expect to have a hand in all aspects of the site, and your contributions will have an immediate, direct impact on the awesomeness of our service.

When it comes to developers, we like to hire Jills and Jacks of all trades. The ideal candidate will be equally comfortable building apps for iOS, developing back-end Python code, working with databases (we use PostgreSQL and PostGIS) and helping optimize our infrastructure.

Here is the requisite bulleted list of requirements:

  • Experience developing iOS applications.
  • Experience developing Web applications, and deploying them on Linux.
  • Experience (and preference for) working on a small team.
  • Clear communication skills, both verbal and written.
  • Impeccable work ethic and ability to manage your own workload effectively.
  • Ability to iterate quickly.

And here are some nice-to-haves:

  • Experience using Python and Django to develop Web applications.
  • Experience developing non-trivial JavaScript applications using jQuery.
  • Experience building geo apps and using PostGIS.
  • Passion about improving neighborhoods through information and
    enabling community conversation.

We have two designers and three developers at the moment; you’d be the fourth. It’s worth mentioning that the entire team right now is ten people, and you have a chance to make a huge impact, beyond strictly development — suggesting marketing ideas, helping prioritize various strategies and tactics, etc.

We have a low-stress environment and a culture of getting things done with as little bureaucracy as possible. Though we’re technically no longer an independent startup — we were acquired by (now NBC News Digital) in 2009 — we’re culturally very much still a startup, given that our product is still in early stages and we’re still figuring things out.

You’ll need to live in the Chicago area for this position. Our office is in a comfortable loft space on the north side of Chicago, near a bunch of other startups. Several of us walk or bike to work; we’re also equidistant from the Montrose and Irving Park el stations on the Brown Line, and several bus lines.

If you’re interested, apply through our Jobvite site. Thanks for checking this out.

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