Block Party!

January 26th, 2009 by Ilya Marritz

In the just last few minutes, I learned that near the address where I work:

  • The closest Starbucks probably has a mouse problem
  • Workers at a construction site have been leaving sheet rock and paint cans out where they can fall and injure passersby
  • A five-story building may soon go up in the backyard of an 1820s townhouse
  • Someone lost an earring

Kind of a random assortment of factoids, but that’s what’s happening in my part of Soho, according to the website Everyblock, which aggregates hyper-local information for 11 US cities. The interesting thing to me about Everyblock is that they make publicly available records truly accessible to the public, by offering an easy, intuitive pathway.

New York City’s Health Department does a pretty good job of posting restaurant inspection information online, but Everyblock conveniently filters in only the restaurants in a 1, 3, or 8-block radius of your chosen address. Ditto for buildings inspections and other records. For some cities, they post information you could otherwise only find in a records office.

This is the kind of resource that simultaneously excites me as a journalist (the stories that can be found here!) and makes me anxious about the future of my profession (if anyone can get this kind of information, who needs us hacks?) No surprise: Everyblock is funded by the Knight Foundation, which has been seeding money to projects that try to bring journalism into the digital age.

Anyway, Everyblock is exactly one year and one day old today, and you should definitely give it a whirl.

On a totally unrelated note: Caroline Kennedy‘s rollout as a potential senator was badly executed, as scores of columnists have pointed out. But it’s a pity we didn’t have the chance to find out what an attorney who’s co-written a book on privacy would have done as senator. No excerpts of the book are available online (private!) but the reviews suggest the authors collected scores of stories from ordinary Americans whose privacy was compromised. Perhaps Kennedy isn’t out-of-touch at all.

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