Project link: DesMoinesRegister.com/potholes
Database backend/Local government admin: James E. Wilkerson
In case you haven’t noticed, potholes are everywhere. We hate ‘em, and we’re out to kill them.
We did a similar map two years ago, but there’s a few big twists that make us pretty proud of this one.
Working with local governments: We consulted extensively with Des Moines Public Works to see how we could build a system for reporting potholes that worked for our users AND for the city. We sent them data last time as well, but it didn’t work well for them. We didn’t have reverse-geocoding figured out two years ago, and someone had to re-enter our data into the city’s system to make anything happen.
Neither side wanted a repeat of that, but we really wanted to build a system Des Moines would actually use. The result: We send them daily e-mails with Excel attachments showing new potholes with exact locations. They’ve told use they’re going to hand those spreadsheets directly to their road crews and use that as a manifest for the day alongside their existing system. We’ve gotten word from several suburbs that they’ll participate as well.
As far as I know this is the first time we’ve ever pushed data TO a government agency. Usually we’re trying our best to pry it loose from them. And we think this is a pretty big win-win. We have a larger megaphone than the city Web site, and they have the power to make the evil potholes go away.
Facebook Connect support: This is our first Facebook Connect app. We’re giving users the option of logging in with their Facebook ID or their DesMoinesRegister.com account. We wanted to add registration of some kind this time around to cut down on spam and to see how willing people will be to use their real ID on our site.
We’re only scratching the surface of what we can do with Facebook Connect, but hey, we launched this thing today. Give us a bit. Lots more to come.
Geo-awareness: We’ve enabled browser-geolocation if the user chooses, so she can mark a pothole near her current location. This isn’t incredibly useful for desktop users, but we’re adding a mobile version soon, and we all know that’s where the real geolocation action is.
The early buzz on Twitter in response to the launch has really been good. And this is the first time I’ve been happy about the worst winter in my recent memory: there won’t be a shortage of potholes to fill this spring.