Hyperlocal Web Sites Use Public Records to Provide Targeted Information

With the ever-increasing availability of freely accessible government datasets (see our entry about Maryland legislative committee votes from last week), developers are seizing opportunities to reprogram these public records into Internet applications that are more relevant for the general public (read another blog entry about this trend here). One such trend is hyperlocal news web sites, such as EveryBlock.   EveryBlock aggregates (and makes searchable) civic information from multiple public records datasets, including:

  • Building permits
  • Business licenses
  • Crime reports
  • Restaurant inspections
  • Property records
  • City press releases

Subscribers enter their address and are then delivered local news specific to their location via an RSS feed on their computers or iPhones.  In addition to aggregated public records, subscribers can get news articles, local blog entries, and assorted information from the Web.

EveryBlock now covers neighborhoods in 15 large cities nationwide, including San Francisco and Washington, D.C.  The company is based in Chicago and was launched in 2008 by a $1 million grant from the Knight Foundation.  As a condition of the grant, EveryBlock's source code is open.  As more local governments release datasets, developers in other cities and countries will be able to use the existing technology behind EveryBlock to create similar web sites.

More on EveryBlock from CNN, New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.