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Meta S. Brown

Text & the City: Municipalities Discover Text Analytics

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SRS1
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Master Analyst
Text & the City
SRS1   1/24/2014 10:12:53 AM
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There is more data to be captured than text alone. 311 can see location data and while 911 will see much more info like the exact adress or name of cell phone user. A caller will be identified and I think more can and will come of text analytics.  

Meta S. Brown
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Blogger
Re: The City of Big Data
Meta S. Brown   1/23/2014 6:41:14 PM
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I don't know how much time those guys actually spend at U of C. Brett Goldstein is also CTO at Grosvenor Capital, and I've seen Rayid Ghani at a speaking gig that was obviously paid, so clearly he has other irons in the fire.

BethSchultz
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Re: The City of Big Data
BethSchultz   1/23/2014 5:23:11 PM
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Hi Meta, I see I was right that you'd have some thoughts to share on Chicago and its data strategy. I had the chance to hear Goldstein do a presentation a while back and he did seem a sharp and determined guy with some good ideas to build on. But, being a native Chicagoan, I must confess to have been thinking the whole time I heard him speak, and during a quick followup afterwards, "Ya, right." As you say, Chicago government is still Chicago government -- and change certainly doesn't come easy. 

Seems U of C's Harris School of Public Policy is amassing the local data talent; I believe that's where Rayid Ghani, the Obama campaign's chief data scientist, is too -- at least in part.

I wonder what became of Goldstein's efforts to share data insights across muncipalities. I recall him trying to team up with NYC and Phillie data guys for some lessons learned and best practices sort of undertakings. I'll have to check it out.

 

 

Meta S. Brown
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Re: The City of Big Data
Meta S. Brown   1/23/2014 3:03:09 PM
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Beth,

Thanks for pointing this out!

As Mary Jander has acknowledged, analysis only means as much as what you're prepared to do with it. I wish I could say that my city is all about data-driven decision making, but there's a lot of evidence to the contrary.

Within the Chicago police force, it's my understanding that there has been serious investment in analytics, and that there are people who are serious about using the information. Brett Goldstein, the former Chief Data Officer of Chicago whom Mary also mentioned in her post, came to that role after working for the Chicago police. So, there are certainky spots of serious use of data in Chicago government.

The city established a new role - Chief Data Officer. And they hired a very capable person for the job. But they didn't provide him with money for staff, software, or much of anything else.

Brett Goldstein is a resourceful guy. He managed to attract a lot of expert volunteer labor. And he used open source software. So he made a lot from a little. Now the city has a portal for datasets. And it has some interesting analyses performed by talented and generous volunteers.

But, so what?

I have seen some good data journalism, interesting ways that reporters have integrated data (especially crime data) from the city's portal into stories and visualizations, sometimes enriching these with additional data sources. What I have not seen is one credible example of the city doing anything positive as a result of establishing the portal, or hiring a Chief Data Officer, or claiming that Chicago government will be transparent.

Chicago government is still Chicago government.

Nothing revolutionary is happening here. I'm all for making data available, and making it easily accessible. But it's important to recognize that the data being shared was already public information. Goldstein's emphasis on open source software should not be taken as evidence of superiority of open source for municipal purposes. I have personally heard him sing the praises of certain commercial software. He went with open source because he had no money and no choice. Brett Goldstein has left the job. No doubt most of the volunteers have flown the coop, too.

While the Chief Data Officer and the data portal were getting lots of press, here's a story that didn't. The Metro Chicago Information Center (MCIC), a nonprofit that collected demographic data and performed research - exactly the type of data and research that are appropriate to inform public policy decisions - folded.

If Chicago is ever to make decisions driven by honest and competent analysis of data, we'll need fundamental political change. That kind of change is hard to come by, especially in Chicago.

BethSchultz
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Blogger
The City of Big Data
BethSchultz   1/23/2014 1:26:22 PM
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Hi Meta, I came across this blog today about Chicago's data use and, since this post inspired the writer to take a look at what's going on here, I thought I'd share. If you have a chance to read it, let me know if your impressions match up with hers! Chicago's Data Projects: Overblown or On Target?

Broadway
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Re: Red Flags
Broadway   1/20/2014 9:13:28 PM
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@Meta. you touch on a good point. The whole notion that intel services failed to "connect the dots" before 9/11 was in part a myth created by the administration to point fingers elsewhere. The truth was, they were being told that specific terrorists posed a threat. They were told that terrorists planned to smash planes into buildings. And they chose to make their priorities elsewhere.

Meta S. Brown
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Blogger
Re: Red Flags
Meta S. Brown   1/20/2014 10:29:28 AM
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It's not for no reason that there are certain boundaries on information sharing between agencies. The NSA has access to information I strongly feel they should not have in the first place. And though we hear about that, it's only one of the places where there is room for debate about what data the government is able to obtain about citizens without any particular reason - commercial data vendors offer all sorts of goodies to law enforcement agencies.

It's not the volume of data, but the relevance of data that's important. And yes, the willingness and ability to take proper action.

Is more data, or more data sharing, the key to preventing terrorism? I don't believe so.

Remember that the director of the CIA warned Condoleezza Rice of the looming Al Qaeda threat before the September 11, 2001 attacks. The information was available to the right people at the right time, without the Patriot Act, and without any new policies for interagency information sharing. But it did not matter.

The NSA had its monster database well before the Boston bombings. And that didn't matter, either.

If those big old databases were of real value, we'd hear about a lot of convictions for crimes related to terrorist conspiracies. But the federal courthouse near me is busy with trials for politcal corruption and tax evasion, not terrorism.

 

Meta S. Brown
User Rank
Blogger
Re: A measure of success
Meta S. Brown   1/20/2014 10:10:34 AM
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Beth,

I know that these cities are trying new things, and that's something I appreciate. But they are not necessarily avoiding the major mistake we discussed in the broadcast - which was the failure to begin with a viable plan to use the information in a way that could be realistically expected to yield positive returns.

The Alexandria police have been deep in data analysis for a number of years, and they have publically discussed some examples of actually taking action based on data analysis and having measurable results to show. For example, I recall a case where they used predictive analytics to determine hotspots for gun crimes, and used that information for police dispatching on New Year's Eve, resulting in a significant decrease in that particular type of crime (shooting guns as a form of celebration) on an occasion when it was known to be a problem. Perhaps one key element of that story is that it was the police force themselves who invested in data analysis.

On the other hand, I can't say that I see equivalent commitment in the example of my home, Chicago. Although our police force does have a significant involvement in anallytics, and has for some time, the new data initiatives put in place by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel may be little more than window dressing. Brett Goldstein, a former police officer who was first to take on the city's Chief Data Officer role, has already left the job. He went in with nothing more than volunteers for staff, and no budget for tools. The city has established a data portal, but as for stories of properly measured results from successful applications - please let me know if you hear of any such reports.

 

 

SaneIT
User Rank
Data Doctor
Re: Monitoring text
SaneIT   1/20/2014 8:20:10 AM
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I just want to say I wan't arguing the value of the call text just that if they are shifting focus away from current metrics I think that they need to be careful.  The text could man a deeper look at the problems but for the high level if a public service isn't catching caller info and tracking problems by type they are doing some things very wrong.

Alexis
User Rank
Data Doctor
Re: Red Flags
Alexis   1/18/2014 11:53:47 AM
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Ah yes...let's give the government even more data and save it the trouble of stealing it without our consent

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