Automatic Local Information

This article from Next American City looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the website EveryBlock.com, an automated, geography-based information aggregator.

"At first blush, the concept behind EveryBlock makes sense: With the amount of media already out there, how better to capture it than with an automated program? Certainly, the data on the Web site provides users anywhere in the world a snapshot of a neighborhood's civic and, to some extent, cultural goings on. And there is much to be said for capturing, organizing and centralizing information as opposed to adding to it. But the absence of an editorial hand is also the site's weakness; results don't do much to enlighten visitors about a neighborhood's character. For instance, a recent search of a Harlem address (my own) brought up real estate listings, the results of restaurant inspections, and articles from the New York Times, the Daily News and the Observer that mentioned Harlem or nearby Central Park. There were also crime listings from surrounding precincts, a restaurant review and a couple of hazy photos (via Flickr) of the interior of an apartment. But because nothing has been published in the past week that gets to the real flavor of the neighborhood, a stranger would have no idea that, say, central Harlem is contending with gentrification and the social issues that come with it. The Web site, then, is kind of like those flowers for sale at the corner deli - beautiful, perhaps, but when you put your nose to petals, there isn't any smell. Put another way: One would like to think one's neighborhood is greater than the sum of its parts - a concept that's essential to the greatness of any city. On EveryBlock, there are parts, but no whole."

Full Story: A New Chip off the Old Block

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