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First POST: Broken Heroes

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, January 9 2014

Chris Christie's political career threatened by a traffic scandal of his staff's own making; Cory Doctorow and Albert Wenger fear that 2014 may be the year we lose the open web; Upworthy shares what was most shared in 2013; and much, much more. Read More

Researchers Say Making City Planning Into a Game Actually Works

BY Sam Roudman | Friday, March 1 2013

Composite illustration: Nick Judd / TechPresident

Public meetings and focus groups aren’t the only tools at the disposal of planners and communities. For help, some cities are looking to a game. As Boston and Detroit did before them, planners in Philadelphia have turned to an online game called Community PlanIt, developed by the Engagement Game Lab at Emerson College, to augment their planning process. Emerson researchers and city planners say it's working: The games are bringing more people into city planning than would otherwise be there, and a more diverse group of participants. Here's when they say it's worked, how it works, and a little bit about why. One hint: Yes, Community PlanIt has in-game rewards, but those aren't the real incentives — in-game currency is a way of tracking and understanding progress. People play to help improve their communities, researchers say. Read More

How Open Source Civic Technology Helped Flu Vaccinations Go Viral

BY Sam Roudman | Tuesday, January 15 2013

Photo: rocknroll_guitar / Flickr

In the middle of what might be the worst flu season in a decade, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a public health emergency — and civic hackers found a way to help the cause. With help from Code for America volunteers, the Boston Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics was able to repurpose a Chicago app that maps free vaccination locations in little more than a day, just in time for a weekend vaccination campaign at 24 locations. The app's journey from Chicago to Boston is a model of intra-civic partnership. Read More

From Fire Box to Future Box: Boston's Looking to Repurpose an Old Standby

BY Sam Roudman | Monday, January 7 2013

Photo: ericodeg

With the expansion of digital communications, the still-telegraph-enabled(!) fire alarm box is dying a slow death. But a recent initiative of the Boston Fire Department is looking to save the city’s 2,200 red sentinels from the flame, soliciting proposals to update a technology invented in the Boston area over 160 years ago, and whose upkeep costs the city $2 million annually. Read More

Boston's Office Of New Urban Mechanics Hires First In-House Developer

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, October 5 2012

Boston's office of New Urban Mechanics is hiring former Code for America Fellow Michael Evans as its first in-house developer as it seeks to build out a team of "civic technologists." Evans, 32, starts his new job in ... Read More

What is "New Urban Mechanics" and Why Does Philadelphia Want Some?

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, October 3 2012

When Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced on Monday that Philadelphia will get a new arm of city government called the Office of New Urban Mechanics, he was signing on to a sizable experiment in how government is supposed to work.

Nutter's administration is emulating a program Boston City Hall put in place two years ago to find innovative — you might also say "untested" — ideas and see if they can make government work better. The Boston Office of New Urban Mechanics is just a handful of people led by Nigel Jacob, a former programmer, and Chris Osgood, a city official who came to Boston after a stint at New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation. Their job is to help those new solutions to old problems navigate the often tricky hallways of city bureaucracy.

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Philadelphia Mayor Launches a New Office for Innovation, Taking a Cue from Boston

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Tuesday, October 2 2012

Inspired by Boston, the city of Philadelphia is establishing its own Office of New Urban Mechanics, said the city's Mayor Michael Nutter late Monday at the Code for America Summit.

"New Urban Mechanics Philadelphia is a nimble and entrepreneurial government outfit," Nutter said during a Monday afternoon speech in San Francisco. "It is piloting and prototyping small innovative projects in the civic space, which along with efforts of individuals across multiple city departments, will better enable our city to sustain a culture of innovation and entrepreneurial approaches to problem-solving."

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'Through the Wall:' Code for America, One Year On

BY Nick Judd | Monday, October 17 2011

Image courtesy Code for America

Code for America launched last year to see if coding talent and information-technology knowledge could help big municipal governments make their cities better without spending a whole lot of money, modernizing city hall ... Read More