Even when in possession of good and useful data, humans behave irrationally. City government is itself given to irrationality, particularly when politics is involved. Given that the purpose of this series (here and here, so far) is to explore how best to gather, analyze, and apply data to city government, what to do about this persistent irrationality? Continue reading
When Eric explained his goal to apply the data lens, my first thought was “Dammit, that’s so good why didn’t I think of that?”
At our next lunch however, it was time to get to business. Data is great, but data without purpose is like window shopping on Ebay: ain’t nothing good is gonna come of it. Charles from GIS, who had joined us for our occasional trip to our amazingly authentic and spicy local Thai buffet, discussed some very cool work he was doing looking into intersection safety around the city. While we briefly went down that path, Eric had recently read Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City and the multiple potential data-based questions about low-income rental evictions described were intriguing to both of us. Continue reading
We love data. Especially “big data” that fits neatly into spreadsheets and generates impressive graphs. We call some of those graphs infographics, or infauxgraphics, but even that witticism hints at an underlying discomfort: Data can be cool and interesting without being useful.
This note is the first in a proposed series about making data useful. My own occupation and curiosity is in city government, so the notes will consider the questions attendant to using data to make better decisions there. For the last four years, I have tried to do so in my own organization, the government in a city of 41,000 people in South Carolina. I have not had any outstanding success, and I would certainly not call myself an expert. But I have learned. I plan to ask questions, encourage comments, welcome communication, and adapt. I hope that people from inside and outside city government will find the series useful, and will consider participation worth their effort.
In short, I am trying to start a conversation about the data-driven city. Continue reading
I recently shared Tom Wujec’s “Build a Tower, Build a Team,” a TED Talk that explores results from the marshmallow challenge:
“Teams of four have to build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string and a marshmallow. The marshmallow has to be on top. And, though it seems really simple, it’s actually pretty hard because it forces people to collaborate very quickly.”
I encourage you to watch it; the talk is less than seven minutes long and has several very useful insights. In this note, I discuss the primary insight that prototyping is more effective than planning.