Everyblock: local news for everywhere
January 23, 2008 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Everyblock has launched. It's local news culled from (any and all available) services, including photos, news, restaurant inspections, classified ads, and civic announcements. Sounds pretty dry, but looking at my old neighborhood in San Francisco, there's a wealth of hyperlocal information that you can't get in one place. They're currently in three major metro areas of the US with many more to come -- their launch announcement has more. This site was spearheaded by Adrian Holovaty, a pioneer of the intersection between journalism and computer science, and winner of a $1million grant last year to build such sites.
posted by mathowie (32 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
This is a great idea--but, unfortunately, it's focused on high density cities. The real tragedy of the technological era is the death of local news coverage for the exurbs. Huge newspaper conglomerates have purchased most of the local dailies, so they've become little more than tabloids and the AP wire. Fatal car crashes in my town--a town of a few thousand--are no longer even "worthy" of the newspaper. Instead we get column after column about decorating cakes.

I guess I should have known from the name (everyblock) that this wouldn't be a cure for my local news woes.
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:12 PM on January 23, 2008 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I agree on the local news front for small cities. I imagine given the goals, it's much easier to cull from dozens of options in big cities to offer local feeds versus say a small town in the middle of america that might only have one new item a week.

I imagine they'll eventually get to the small towns and syndicate the info, since there certainly still are photos, restaurant reviews, and other things taking place even in the smallest of cities.
posted by mathowie at 2:15 PM on January 23, 2008

I suggest emailing your ideas to Holovaty. He's been real nice when I've emailed him in the past.
posted by rbs at 2:25 PM on January 23, 2008

It'd be pretty difficult to pull this off with a small town: most small towns -- mine being a perfect example -- are terrible when it comes to public data availability. Nearly everything is still done on paper or in mainframe databases that are probably thirty years old. Even finding someone who might understand what a "data feed" is can be an amazing challenge.
posted by jacobian at 2:27 PM on January 23, 2008

I'm thinking of the local radio show that plays at my brother's house in central Pennsylvania, and for half an hour each day reads the names of each person admitted to the local hospital, and for what reason.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:28 PM on January 23, 2008

Am I exceptionally blind or are there no RSS feeds? Wouldn't that be sort of crucial?
Googling for "everyblock rss" returns the everyblock blog and...this thread.
posted by Skorgu at 2:32 PM on January 23, 2008

Skorgu: There are RSS feeds for every block, but not on every page of the site. I'm sure they'll get to the more critical ones over time.

I've been playing with the site, and I'm in love. I think my favorites are the Chicago filmings, Graffiti in NYC, and SF restaurant violations.
posted by waxpancake at 2:36 PM on January 23, 2008

Ooh, excellent! Um, they'll be moving into LA soon, right? I often google madly for ultra-local news after seeing something interesting, and usually can't find anything.

Very cool.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:41 PM on January 23, 2008

Whoa, I lived within wstalking distance of mathowie!
posted by cortex at 2:41 PM on January 23, 2008

This is a great idea but it certainly won't replace local news coverage because there's no way to figure out what the politics of anything are.

For example, lots of politics around building permits, liquor licenses, development, etc.: no way to know what any of the granular stuff really means. it's nice to know that a restaurant on my block applied for a liquor license: maybe I can go and stop them because I'm afraid of noise.

but how do I know what the backstory is? how do I know who is who? how do I find anything interesting? how do I know if I'm having an impact?

it's a great tool for an actual local reporter to find info needed for stories-- but it doesn't do the valuable thing that reporters do when they are working well, which is boil down all the boring shit and give you what you need to know when you need to know it.
posted by Maias at 2:41 PM on January 23, 2008

Why do I have the deep, deep suspicion, that, despite the fact that I live in my state's capital, it'll be years before we're on this?
posted by middleclasstool at 2:55 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

As Adrian says in this Poynter interview, it's not meant to replace local news coverage, but fills a gap left by traditional journalism. Journalists do a tremendous amount of data gathering (e.g. crime blotter, election returns), but newspapers have failed to make that data available in any meaningful way. The output is pretty much useless for analysis: usually, a block of text without any standard formatting.
posted by waxpancake at 2:58 PM on January 23, 2008

Want: a website to aggregate superlocal news for everywhere.
Reality: most of this one doesn't work.
Irony: including the feedback form.
Solution: plaster beta over your logo, get bought by Google.
Snark aside, this will be truly awesome when it's all polished
posted by Skorgu at 3:04 PM on January 23, 2008

This is super cool, I can't wait for it to trickle into the 'burbs.

(and I too am a former resident of Matt's old 'hood. Holla!)
posted by padraigin at 3:05 PM on January 23, 2008

I believe their definition of "every" leaves something to be desired.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:06 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the comments, guys. We've fixed the broken RSS feeds for NYC. I'll look into the broken feedback form next -- sorry if it caused any frustration!

Adrian @ EveryBlock
posted by adrian_h at 3:34 PM on January 23, 2008

Holy shit. I didn't know that Jacob Kaplan-Moss is on mefi. Awesome. I lurve django.
posted by rbs at 3:34 PM on January 23, 2008

I see on almost every page "Chicago New York San Francisco" and now I'm humming "New York London Paris Munich..." Just like Pop Muzik, I wonder how and when it might embrace more than the trendiest places.
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:35 PM on January 23, 2008

Hmm... Looks an awful lot like http://yourstreet.com

But yourstreet has much better coverage...
posted by georgikeith at 3:42 PM on January 23, 2008

yourstreet has much better coverage...

coverage area, maybe, but it's completely worthless.

i searched 94110 and the first 2 news stories were about San Mateo and Sunnyvale (yes, i marked them "wrong location").

also, waaaaaay too slow. i don't want to wait a full minute to get a 50-word blurb. fail.

It's all about the content, and neither site has it. I don't think any single site ever will, which is a good thing, imo.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:57 PM on January 23, 2008

but Everyblock is a great idea in theory - make public all of the documents, publications, etc. about a specific zip code. I'm just not sure how feasible it is.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:58 PM on January 23, 2008

I've always thought that a site like this needs to exist. But now that I see it, I am not compelled by it. I dont feel an urge to return to my neighborhood site.

Maybe its just that the zipcode I'm in (94110) doesnt really represent my neighborhood which is north bernal heights. If I look at the crime stats for example they are mostly in the south Mission, which I know about already. The south mission gangsters pretty much keep to themselves and the bernal heights crunchy white liberals stay here.

Much of the other data has too much noise. That a local restaurant has just received a scheduled inspection is too low-level. I dont care. I do want to know maybe if a local restaurant has received an extremely bad report. So maybe the data needs to be filtered.

So, relevancy needs to be increased. Adding more data otherwise will just add more noise.
posted by vacapinta at 4:13 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

This looks great.

As pointed out above, it looks like the RSS feeds for the neighborhoods, districts, and zip codes are still missing. Odd that Adrian decided on RSS feeds at the individual block level before providing RSS feeds for neighborhoods. Until geocoding becomes more widespread, there just isn't enough block-level info available yet to make a RSS feed worthwhile.

I'd also love to see some type of hierarchical dashboard in the future so I can see what's going on in San Francisco, my neighborhood and a few others, plus assorted zip codes without multiple URLs. Some type of tabbed implementation would be terrific for this.

Down the line, I could definitely see EveryBlock becoming something of a modular digital newspaper that's fully customizable to the user.

@georgikeith: Similar but I think EveryBlock is set to become much more useful. YourStreet.com is just a news article aggregator while EveryBlock is a news, information, and media aggregator. YourStreet.com just doesn't provide much value beyond what a local newspaper already offers simply because that's all they're scraping. In San Francisco, it's pretty much just SFGate alongside a Google Map with pushpins.
posted by junesix at 4:15 PM on January 23, 2008

junesix said: "Odd that Adrian decided on RSS feeds at the individual block level before providing RSS feeds for neighborhoods."

Neighborhood feeds are coming very soon -- definitely by the end of the week. We're only doing block-level feeds at the moment because it's a *ton* of information (even at the block level), and we're working on a smarter way of doing feeds than we currently have. E.g., you don't really need an RSS notification for every Yelp review near your block.
posted by adrian_h at 4:47 PM on January 23, 2008

Crap, guess where I had dinner....
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 5:10 PM on January 23, 2008

Um, hasn't outside.in already been doing this since 2006?
posted by lia at 6:05 PM on January 23, 2008

I really hate how these services, restricted to puny little areas, are always given huge play in the blogosphere. It is insulting to everyone else in the world. A big giant FU to everyone who isn't in the top 3 American cities.

If you are on the internet and you are just restricting yourself to being useful to a small group of people don't flood the whole bloody web with your press. Use local media or sites to inform the people who can actually use the site instead of telling the whole world "Hey look what we made that you can't use"
posted by srboisvert at 4:37 AM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Shit, I've been running a hyperlocal community weblog for my 'hood since 2005. I'd better make sure they don't steal my data. :p
posted by sciurus at 6:05 AM on January 24, 2008

Color me unimpressed. This tells me nothing about what's going on in my house. Whose month is it to do laundry? When was the dog last walked, and what was the consistency of his stool? Did you do your homework? (That's right, you!) Who ate the rest of the brownies? DAMMIT!!!

So when you've got yourhouse.com done - with RSS feeds, please -- come see me.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:20 AM on January 24, 2008

I found talking to your neighbors is easier.

/kidding, partially.

Plus, I second srboisvert's comment.

It's a great concept and the noise/value ratio is a big obstacle that adrian can implement for users (such as selecting the data sources of your area).

As jacobian mentioned, the biggest challenge, and Adrian mentioned this sort of in that poynter interview, is that residents in many cities (even larger ones, i.e. Cleveland, and that's not mentioning outside of the USA) are not able to use this technology because the local information that everyblock uses is not online.

(I spent some of my summer copying a mix of hand-written police reports and typed police blotter to create excel spreadsheets of neighborhood crimes for a neighborhood CDC because Cleveland Police is still doing these things without these technologies).

It's no wonder that he chose chicago, NYC and SF - those cities (well, chicago is at least with chicagocrime.org) are more apt to use the internet and other technology within their municipal governments and other local entities.
posted by fizzix at 10:58 AM on January 24, 2008

> [...] residents in many cities [...] are not able to use this technology because the local information that everyblock uses is not online.

It's not so much that the data's not online as that it's not computerized in the first place. One example: a few years back we tried to gather a database of traffic citations here in Lawrence. The city gave us hundreds of pages of photocopied, handwritten citation tickets.

We tried a similar thing again this week, asking the university for information about crimes in campus residencies. We got much better results this time: a hundred-page Microsoft Word document with a table embedded in it.

posted by jacobian at 3:01 PM on January 24, 2008

Rex Sorgatz of Fimoculous has posted an interesting interview with Adrian Holovaty, the founder of EveryBlock.
posted by RichardP at 7:41 PM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

« Older Going to the chapel, gonna... cook some dinner.   |   Words Without Pictures Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments