Historically, data sources for urban planning have remained relatively stable. Planners relied on a collection of well-known government-produced datasets to do their work, including statistics and geographic layers from federal, state and local sources. Produced by regulatory processes or occasional surveys, the strengths and limitations of these sources are well known to planners and many citizens. However all this is beginning to change. Not only has the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey introduced a bewildering variety of data products, all with margins of error, three interrelated categories of new data are growing rapidly: crowdsourced, private, and "big" data.
Many thanks to Wired’s Jeff Howe who’s 2006 article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing” put an effective label at what the internet was doing to business. Building from Web 2.0 applications focused on social media like Facebook and on-line communities, it’s become a popular and controversial term in tech circles. For those not as familiar with the idea, let’s consult the most often used example of crowdsourcing – Wikipedia. “Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model. Problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions.
I had the opportuntity, at the 2009 national planning conference in Minneapolis, to present (together with my colleague Christian Peralta Madera) ten free web applications that can be used to support planning.
Approximately 350 participants attended the session. Since the presentation, I've received over 100 emails congratulating us on the practical nature of the presentation, and requesting links to the websites we presented. Since our presentation was a hands-on demonstration, this blog entry outlines the ten technologies, and provides links to examples of the technology in practice and resources so you can experiment with the technologies.
What can we as planners learn from president-elect Barak Obama's use of technology?
President-elect Obama has been an early adopter of Web 2.0 technologies both in his campaign and the transition to the White House. It is likely that the Obama administration will continue to use Web 2.0 technologies to both engage the public in determining policies and to make government operations more transparent.
As planners, there are a lot of great tools and techniques that we can use in the planning processes. Here are some of the tools that the Obama team have used that could be used in planning.