CivicApps Idea: City Should be Arbiter of Data Sources, not Simply a Source Itself. in a nutshell

Back in the old days, circa 2008, cities like Portland would create apps (interactive websites) for us like this:

The old way
The old way of making apps

They’d get a team together, look at the Datasets available to it, come up with ideas, and then build the apps.  PortlandMaps, an awesome web app, was made this way.  But there’s a new trend and Portland’s setting an example for other cities.  First, the city adopts a policy of transparency, publishing all of its raw data in addition to the finished apps:

CivicApps 1
First, cities make their raw data available

Then, curious and entrepreneurial individuals, companies, and other organizations step in and independently create new apps.  This frees up city resources and results in more apps and services coming online:

CivicApps 2
Then, 3rd parties can step in and contribute

This is the entire purpose of the project and website: to enable this creative environment.  By the way, this is the same idea behind the federal project.

My idea: we can contribute data too

It occurred to me that many organizations have valuable data about the city.  And some even have the expertise to publish the data in “open formats” just like the city of Portland is doing:

My idea
My idea: We can provide datasets too

For example, my project,, publishes a glossary of legal terms specific to Oregon.  This is already up and running as a Dataset.

It will, though, take some work to implement my idea.  Some questions to answer are;  How will these 3rd party Datasets be integrated into the palette of “official” ones?  How will the data be authenticated or verified?

The near future

The end result of all this is that the city could become a nexus of information.  In addition to providing raw data about itself, it can act as a means of identification and authentication. There’s a precedent for the government acting in this role, e.g. the Secretary of State’s business registry performs a similar service.


Oregon Business Magazine covered the CivicApps contest:  Keeping PDX a Hot Spot for App Development

I just found out that I won one of the two Best Idea awards given in the first annual CivicApps for Greater Portland contest for this idea;  I was completely surprised and very honored.  I submitted my idea as Community-Contributed Datasets.