Eyes on EveryBlock
EveryBlock is a new location-based content aggregator that launched this week, currently available for New York City, Chicago and San Francisco. It combines local news items for a given sub-city region, such as as neighbourhood, street address or post code. Query the East Village, for example, to get a summary of local news and data from a variety of sources, on topics like restaurant reviews, crime reports, building permits, published news, recent photographs, graffiti, lost and found items and missed connections. You can organize the data based on publication date, news type or geographic location. The interface is clean, orderly and displays a strong information hierarchy. The site seems responsive and queries appear to execute with a minimum of fuss. EveryBlock uses the familiar “Did You Mean…” pattern for resolving multiple hits. The application’s URL design has received the royal treatment: all queries are written as human-readable words or phrases, separated by slashes and hyphens. This makes the site easy to use from the location bar—play around with it for a few minutes and you can get your data directly by typing in the URLs. The lack of query syntax junk makes this very intuitive. And you can subscribe to an RSS feed for any of the searches you can define.
EveryBlock New York’s current data sources reveal that many of the data types are fed from public records, while a few (business reviews, news, photos, lost and found) come from social sites like Yelp, Flickr and Craigslist:
- the Building Information System (BIS), NYC Department of Buildings, for Building Permits, Building Violations Issued and Building Violations Resolved
- Yelp New York for Business Reviews
- weekly precinct reports published by the NYPD for Crime Reports
- the Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit (CAU) database of completed graffiti cleanup locations for Graffiti Cleaned, Graffiti Pending Cleanup
- the Center for NYC Law CityAdmin database, sourced from the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission for Landmark Building Permits
- the NY State Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control/State Liquor Authority (ABC) for Liquor Licenses
- Craigslist New York for Lost and Found Postings and Missed Connections
- various web-published news sources for News Articles
- Flickr (what else?) for Photos
- the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) restaurant inspection database for Restaurant Inspections.
A few things I’m really curious about:
- Will people want to start contributing news items of their own in their neighbourhoods?
- If there’s demand for 1, what will the reporting method be (e.g. what would qualify as a user-contributed news source?)
- How well does EveryBlock render on mobile devices?
- Will people use tools like Yelp, Flickr and Craigslist as ways of feeding content to EveryBlock (rather than for their own sake)?
Given the dependencies on local electronic data sources I doubt it will be coming to small towns any time soon. Middletown, probably not; New Haven, maybe. The value of such a tool lies in how well it can surface the majority of news and happenings in a geographic region in real time. Widespread popularity may depend on having a wide enough range of user-contributed data types. This will be interesting to watch. I’m just not crazy about that green.