News, Open Data

‘SFpark’ Opens Parking Data

A new project from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency allows drivers to check out parking pricing and availability from the web or iPhone and iPad, and enables flexible pricing for the most desirable parking spots at different hours throughout the day.

You can fill up on information about SFpark here.

SFpark has also created a developer API.


Open Data Improves Lives

In case you missed it on Sunday, the New York Times had a great article on the importance of government-published open data and its benefits to business and community. The article, by Richard H. Thaler of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, singled out the pioneering efforts of San Francisco’s government and developers:

For some years, Bay Area transit systems had been tracking the locations of their trains and buses via onboard GPS. Then someone got the bright idea to post that information in real time. Thus the delightful app Routesy was born. Install it on a smartphone and the app can tell you that your bus is stuck in traffic and will be 10 minutes late — or it can help you realize that you are standing on the wrong street, dummy. It gives consumers a great new way to find out when and where the bus is coming, and all at minimal government expense.

Find the full Times article here, and check out DataSF for more good bits. 

News, Open Data

SF Film Commission Opens Data Trove to App Developers

San Francisco’s always been a special place for movie buffs. And now the City’s Film Commission is opening up its treasure trove of historical information to application developers.

As part of the City’s signature “open data” initiative, the commission this week posted information on more than 800 San Francisco locations used in movie shoots from 1915 to the present.

This latest release from the Film Commission is already one of the most popular datasets on the front page of DataSF, and the commission is hoping that innovative developers will create fun apps based on the data. The possibilities seem nearly limitless, from audio- and video-enhanced movie tours of San Francisco with a smart phone, to GPS check-in tours following in the steps of some of the City’s most familiar actors. The dataset includes movie titles, release dates, specific locations, historic notes, director, and up to three starring actors.

From Lauren Bacal to Goldie Hawn, Clint Eastwood to Robin Williams, Sean Penn and Jet Li, the dataset presents a fun walk through San Francisco film history even in raw spreadsheet form. James Bond was here, in “View to a Kill,” and along with legendary films such as “Vertigo,” “Bullitt,” and the “Dirty Harry” series, San Francisco and its beautiful neighborhoods and landscapes have also played in “Forrest Gump,” “Herbie Rides Again,” “So I Married an Axe Murderer,” “The Candidate,” “The Princess Diaries” and hundreds more films.

The City’s open data hub,, hosts government data in machine-readable format, and was enshrined in law this fall. The Department of Technology and innovations manager Jay Nath administer the site, and applications developers have built dozens of civic apps based on the data. City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s Office also plays a role, with departmental counsel vetting data sets for private citizen information before release. Applications built on City data are featured in the City’s App Showcase – and hopefully we’ll be seeing new additions for movie fans there in the near future.

– Adriel Hampton

Gov 2.0, News, Open Data, Open Source, Public Participation Project Comes to SF

In a webinar about Gov 2.0 on Tuesday, publisher and conference convener Tim O’Reilly referred to Carl Malamud as the father of the Gov 2.0 movement. Wednesday, Malamud was in San Francisco at the Mitchell Kapor Foundation offices for the 10th in a series of 15 workshops he’s hosting around the country for his current project,, which aims to create an authenticated bulk data feed for all primary legal materials in the U.S.
Malamud is not a lawyer, but he’s met plenty – allies and adversaries – in his time as the nation’s “rogue archivist.” If you want open government, Malamud’s your go-to guy.
Wednesday’s series of panelists balanced open data dreams with hard truths about privacy in the globalized infoweb. Bob Berring, a UC Berkeley law professor, summed up the core issue: Carl is working on a 10 year old’s question: Government has laws. We have to obey those laws. Where are they?
Twitter in-house counsel Alexander Macgillivray talked about the difficulty for legal staff’s at small companies to afford basic research because of high Westlaw and Lexis fees – fees that units of government pay as well for access to legal documents.
Malamud believes that the law is one area that the disintermediating promise of the Internet has barely touched, and he brought in friend O’Reilly for a lunchtime discussion with California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.
“What are we missing as a society because we are denied access to what is essentially the open source of our democracy?” O’Reilly asked.
A recurring theme was the problem of authentication of legal materials online, and the implied authority of the two major vendors. Erika Wayne, a Stanford law librarian, asked if anyone had seen an “informational only” disclaimer – common on web legal materials – on a physical book.
Chris Hoofnagle, a privacy researcher and UC Berkeley law professor also had a stark warning about the need to protect individual privacy as advocates seek to put more government information online. He argued that believers in “Big Brother” powers for the government – “I’m serious” – will use the language of the transparency movement to accomplish their goal of a surveillance society.
Despite the serious mission and very real challenges, the promising theme of open data, Law 2.0 mashups and lowered barriers to legal knowledge was not lost. Said Macgillivray, imagine a statue with its own Twitter account, tweeting its revisions. Another common theme was that local governments are some of the most open – creating universal standards for data release is the challenge.

– Adriel Hampton
Gov 2.0, News, Open Data, Open Source, Public Participation

5/6 at City Hall – Support Open311

One of the most promising areas for open government efforts is cross-gov collaboration on standardized APIs, enabling interoperability of civic apps wherever one goes.

From San Francisco to Edmonton, AB, city IT leaders and developers have been signing on to a key effort on this front – building out an Open311 API for access to non-emergency city services. It’s an effort that will not only benefit large cities and app builders, but has the potential to jump start digital 311 efforts in smaller cities.

May 6 at 6:30 p.m. in San Francisco City Hall, Twilio is hosting Gov 2.0 thought leaders from government and the private sector in an event benefiting OpenPlans, the nonprofit leading Open311 efforts.

RSVP here.

Speakers include SF CIO Chris Vein, Craig Newmark, Tim O’Reilly, Mitchell Kapor and OpenPlans’ Philip Ashlock. The event is still open to sponsors and donations directly to OpenPlans. Additionally, Twilio is seeking four volunteers to help with registration and even coordination – if that’s you, e-mail danielle (at) Hope to see you there!

(Also, SF311 is seeking your opinion on what you want from a 311 web portal. Hit them up @sf311.)

~ Adriel Hampton