alpha.phila.gov – Update #2

We have been working a few different fronts during this past iteration of alpha.phila.gov, all of which have been either subtle changes or completely behind the scenes. Our team will expound on each of these in future posts, but here is a summary:

Infrastructure

Alpha has been hosted in the cloud from day one, but much of the early configuration has been manual or not well optimized. We are making our hosting environment more robust through server optimizations and automating both infrastructure and software deploys.

Pattern Portfolio

Even as we continue to improve on our design, we’re looking ahead to how we can achieve design consistency across our sites and applications, be they built internally, by vendors, or even the civic tech community. We’re breaking down our design into its basic building blocks and organizing them in a pattern portfolio, which will be a very useful as Alpha evolves.

Testing how we organize information

A shiny new website is worthless if people can’t find the services and information they need. We are testing how we organize information with Philadelphia residents to make sure people can find what they need as easily as possible.

Building an open data infrastructure

Click the image for an interactive timeline of data releases in 2014

2014 was a great year for open data in Philadelphia – we saw departments release over 30 datasets, including big ones like Lobbyist Activity, Contracts for Professional Services, and Commercial Building Energy Usage, along with the publication of the Open Data Strategic Plan. But if you look at the release dates in our Open Data Census, you’ll see that we’ve gone over thirty days without any departments releasing a dataset! We thought an update was in order.

In the Strategic Plan, we laid out a vision to scale open data and make it “part of the way we do business as a government.” Rather than approaching data releases on a case-by-case basis as we would do as part of an initiative, we want departments to be able to look at the “full picture” of datasets and prioritize based on measured public demand, and we want a system in place to ensure data releases are consistent, responsible, and automated. This amounts to building an “open data infrastructure,” and it’s a bit different than what we’re used to working on. So far, we’ve:

Met with 43 department heads and Deputy Mayors to review the Open Data Strategic Plan

Step one of the process outlined in the Strategic Plan is “Meet with each department.” We’ve hit the ground running and learned a great deal about the people we’ll be working with and some of the data challenges they have in their operations. Most importantly, the openness and enthusiasm we received gave us a great sense of optimism.

Kicked off data inventories with 12 departments

Step two of the process involves putting together a list of all the datasets at each department. As you can imagine, this is a huge endeavor, but a critical one. It allows us, the department, and the public to see the full picture of what data exists, and determine up-front which datasets can be shared as-is, which ones need sensitive data removed, and which ones can never be shared. Most importantly, it lets us prioritize. Once these priorities are established, it’s just a matter of executing. This means more releases at a faster rate.

Of those 12, some are just getting started (like the Streets Department) and others are inches away from completion (like the Commerce Department). Follow along on our Open Data Census in the “Current Pipeline” section.

Built a Data Services team

There’s a lot of work ahead on open data. Fortunately we have friends in the Civic Technology, Application Services, and GIS teams to lend a hand, but we’ve also built a team specifically focused on implementing the Open Data Strategic Plan, including:

  • Stacey Mosley, Data Services Manager
  • Lauren Ancona, Data Scientist
  • Jessica Magness, Data Science Intern

We’re pretty serious about this stuff :)

Acquired an open data automation tool

In the “What we’ve learned” section of the Strategic Plan, we highlighted the importance of automation. Where avoidable, open data shouldn’t be a burden, and departments shouldn’t have to manually refresh their data every month. We’ve selected a tool (Safe FME) to automatically extract data, transform it to a shareable state, and publish it to various destinations. More importantly, we’ve been learning how to use it! In addition to the GIS Services Group, Andrey Mun, our Senior Software Engineer, has been training his team in preparation to scale our automation efforts.

Formed an Open Data Advisory Group

In June, we began to convene a small group of “open data stakeholders” that represent diverse communities of data users. These include academia, technology, business, non-profit, journalism, and more to help us gauge and understand public demand in a more holistic way. As we near completion of the first few inventories, we’ll discuss them with the group and put step three of the Strategic Plan to the test.

Kicked off a new redesign of phila.gov that will help us reach the general public

Step five of the Strategic Plan is about open data reaching people through a compelling “digital front door,” helping citizens connect to their government through more than just CSV files. Last month we kicked off alpha.phila.gov, a project to create a user-centered redesign of the City’s website. Check out the blog posts by Aaron Ogle and Kyle Odum, who are managing the project, to learn more.

There’s still a lot left to do to realize an open data infrastructure, but we’ve got our plan in front of us and we’re excited by the momentum we’ve been able to build in just a few months. Follow along at the Open Data Census, join the conversation on the Open Data Forum, and stay tuned for more progress updates!

“Leading from the Front” a Video about Philadelphia’s Public Safety Strategies

Earlier today, the City of Philadelphia released a video highlighting four of its most innovative strategies around public safety. In the video, Mayor Michael Nutter, Chief of Staff Everett Gillison, Managing Director Rich Negrin, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, and 1st Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross discuss Philadelphia’s efforts in community policing, intelligence and data-driven policing, stakeholder collaboration, and “leading from the front.” In the past two years, Philadelphia has posted historically-low homicide rates.

To learn more about public safety strategies in Philadelphia, visit PhillyPolice.com and follow @PhiladelphiaGov and @PhillyPolice on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

alpha.phila.gov – Update #1

Here we are two weeks since we kicked-off alpha.phila.gov!  It has been an exciting time and also a very busy time (collective phew!).  We’ve been reviewing the feedback from the alpha.phila.gov feedback form and the comments have been awesome!  Over 60+ visitors to the site have given helpful feedback and suggested what we can do to make it better.  With that we say, “Thank you. Your voices are being heard and we’re evaluating your ideas”.  We’ve had over 1,900 visitors to the site resulting in over 8,850 pageviews.  Additionally, we’ve received internal feedback as well.  These are the updates we are working on thus far:

  • Added the ability to add and view “news” from within phila.gov and not just external links.
  • Added SwiftType to allow for better searching across the site.   This will allow us to provide much better search results to help visitors find what they are looking for.
  • Updated the “Pay a Bill” page listing by removing the “pay your” lead-in and sorted the list alphabetically. By removing “Pay Your” from the results visitors can now quickly look through the list of services they can pay online in alphabetical order.
  • Continuing testing out our Information Architecture to better serve up content. The goal here is to organize information so it can be easily found, easily managed and be extremely useful.  This includes techniques such as labeling content correctly, structuring content, and categorizing information into like groups.  We conducted our test using card sorting and the one big take away was that our assumption people would associate law, courts, and prisons with public safety was totally and utterly wrong!

Stay tuned as we continue to improve and update alpha.  We will be updating you again in two weeks!

Introducing alpha.phila.gov

Philadelphia is one of the greatest cities in the country, but it’s no secret that we don’t have a website to match. Like most governments, we tend to organize content the way we, in government, think about it – like an org chart, like a brochure – and not necessarily like residents think about government. And we typically spend a lot of time planning, gathering requirements, getting sign-off, and building a finished product for a grand reveal long after the process began.

It’s time for a new approach.

Instead of designing from our own assumptions, we will start with the needs of our neighbors, the residents of Philadelphia. We will learn how people want to use phila.gov through regular usability testing and our web analytics.

Instead of designing the entire site up front, we will break down development into manageable, two week iterations. This agile process allows us to develop quickly and provides flexibility to adjust to user feedback and (inevitable) unforeseen issues.

Instead of working behind closed doors and making the public wait for a grand reveal, we will build out in the open. Today we are happy to announce the starting line — alpha.phila.gov, or Alpha1 for short. Alpha is an experimental prototype, a work in progress. It’s missing content. Parts of it are confusing. The design needs work. But the prototype and supporting processes that our team of six put together in just six weeks is pretty incredible.

The goal of Alpha is to show you, our neighbors, where we’re starting and allow you to follow our progress. It gives you the opportunity to have say in crafting phila.gov, Philadelphia’s digital front door2 into city government.

To make this really work, we need your help in three ways.

  1. Visit alpha.phila.gov and tell us what you think. You’ll find a “Provide Feedback” link in the header and footer of every page. Tell us the good, bad, and ugly.
  2. Complete this survey. It’s quick and easy — a little bit about you and how (or if) you use phila.gov.
  3. Tell your neighbors! The more the merrier.

The current phila.gov will remain in place while Alpha matures.

This is a big undertaking, but we’re not alone. We’re following in the footsteps of some amazing innovators like GDS, USDS, 18F, the State of New York, Code for America, and others.

There’s much to do. We won’t get everything right the first time, but we have a tried and true approach, an incredible team, strong supporters, and open ears. We’re looking forward to an exciting and productive 2015.


1 In our process, the “alpha” phase is for rapid prototyping and testing out ideas. As we get feedback from Philadelphia residents and government departments, we will discover a good path forward. We will then move into the “beta” phase which is to ensure that these are ideas are implemented at scale. Finally, the “live” phase is when we roll out fully to the public as the new phila.gov (but we continue to iterate and improve).

2 “Digital Front Door” was shamelessly stolen from our friends at Code for America.

 

Voting? The Philly311 Mobile App Can Help!

On Monday, the Philly311 Mobile App sent out a push notification to remind users to vote. This is just one of the ways the app can be helpful this Election Day.

Philly311’s Election Day widget, released yesterday morning, is a perfect pocket resource for voter participation. The widget’s homepage shows voting hours, information for first-time voters, and a phone number for the Voter Registration Division (215-686-1590).

photo 1 (1)

In the “Where to Vote” section, users can enter their address and find out where they are registered to vote:

photo 2 (1) photo 3 (1)

The widget also includes this Election Day’s ballot, complete with candidates, running mates, parties, and ballot questions:

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While the widget was automatically updated, existing users may have to refresh their app for the widget to appear. (To refresh the Philly311 Mobile App, hold your finger on of the app’s home screen, pull down, and release.)

A big thank you goes out to the City employees and agencies who worked to get the app released in time for Election Day. The Philly311 Mobile App is free for all iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices. Click here to download and go vote!

Philly311 TV: PhillyRising Panel


The City of Philadelphia is proud to present season 2 of Philly311 TV. The show’s goal is to engage, educate, and empower citizens with information about city services. Through interviews with employees from across the municipality, citizens can learn about new initiatives, available resources, and get to know the personal side of city government. In this episode of Philly311 TV, host Rosetta Carrington Lue, sits down with three members of PhillyRising: Deputy Managing Director Ade Fuqua, Deputy Director Bennie Ruth, and Deputy Director Jimmy Sanders. The team discusses how the program developed, how it is evolving, and what is in store for the collaboration in the future.

Tune-in to Philly311 TV on the Philly311 Youtube channel as well as Philadelphia’s Channel 64 at 7:00pm on Monday/Wednesday/Sunday and 7:00am on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday. You can also catch up with Philly311 TV on Sunday’s at 7:00am on PhillyCAM  (Comcast Cable channel 66/966 or Verizon FIOS 29/30).

Those Who Serve: The Richardson Dilworth Award

Mayor Richardson Dilworth

Mayor Richardson Dilworth

“What is a leader?” This is the question that bothered Sam, an 8th grader at Conwell Middle School. Faced with everyday challenges in Kensington, Sam found himself obsessing over this question on his mile walk over to Rock to the Future. Then last week, Sam tried to answer the question for himself, committing it to paper:

“A leader is someone who is willing to sacrifice anything to help their friends. They won’t ever put their friends in danger. A leader doesn’t only help his friends, but also helps those around him. They are a truly kind person no matter their appearance. To sum it all up, a leader is someone who is willing to sacrifice everything to help others.”

When asked why he was inspired to do this, Sam said, “I wrote this because Rock to the Future made me want to be a leader, to be a better person.”

Rock to the Future is working to provide free access to music education for hundreds of our youth every year. Because of them, Sam has learned a valuable lesson about service and has the makings of a great public servant in the future.

I agree with Sam. To me, leadership and “great people” or “great employees” have always been about service, about sacrifice, about helping others. Great people are selfless, constantly striving to serve others. These kinds of people are incredibly valuable to an organization. Great people keep an organization running and serve it in a way that improves and sustains their organization (or city) into the future.

When great people serve in the public sector, their organization is better equipped to serve its constituents. While great people in the public sector certainly aren’t paid as much as in the private sector, their efforts positively impact the lives of the people they serve. More often than not, the people most positively impacted are those that are our most vulnerable. Excellence in that service should be recognized.

In 2011, Mayor Nutter established the Richardson Dilworth Award for Distinguished Public Service to recognize our government’s best people, those who have served the cityand its citizensin extraordinary ways. Named after former Mayor Richardson Dilworth, who served as the 91st Mayor of Philadelphia (1956-1962), the award symbolizes high values and performance in Philadelphia public service.

B.Ash_and__Mayor

The Law Department’s Barbara Ash received the Richardson Dilworth Award in 2014

The hundreds of City employees that have been nominated for the Dilworth Award have helped transform city government into a modern, service-first organization, finding creative and effective ways to serve citizens. Past winners include Carlton Williams, then-Deputy Commissioner of the Streets Department; John Elfrey, Director of Operations in the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities; and Barbara Ash, Chief Deputy Solicitor in the Law Department. These employees (and their fellow nominees) have transformed the city government so much, in fact, that the award has expanded beyond its “Distinguished Public Service” award to better represent the diverse accomplishments and priorities of our current city government. This year, the following awards are being offered:

● Richardson Dilworth Award for Distinguished Public Service
● Richardson Dilworth Award for Excellence in Customer Service (New)
● Richardson Dilworth Award for Innovation in Government (New)

The addition of these awards represents a shift in city government, an effort that would make former Mayor Dilworth proud.

Philadelphia’s city employees have taken the term “public service” to new heights, making Philadelphia a national leader in both government customer service and innovation. We have taken a customer-centric approach to governance and implemented sustainable innovation initiatives so the municipality can play a role in the city’s innovation ecosystem. Today’s city government strives to meet the current and future needs of Philadelphia. This is due to the exceptional service of our employees.

Supported by Dilworth Paxson, LLP and Independence Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Dilworth Award provides City government with a rare opportunity to reward select employees for their extraordinary work. Not only will each winner’s name be memorialized on a plaque outside City Hall, the winner of the Distinguished Public Service Award receives $5,000 and the winners of the “Excellence in Customer Service” and “Innovation in Government” receive $1,000, among other prizes.

Today, let’s honor the exceptional city employee who has helped others and demonstrated excellence in service. Please take a moment to nominate a great public employee for the various Richardson Dilworth Awards. The deadline for nominations is November 14, 2014. More details and a nomination form can be found at dilworthaward.org.

In a few years, I am sure we will all cast a vote for Sam the 8th grader, but, in the meantime, there is a public servant that deserves our recognition today. Thank you.

Rich headshot 1Rich Negrin is the City of Philadelphia’s Managing Director and Deputy Mayor for Administration and Coordination. Service Centered Leadership is the Managing Director’s blog series appearing on PhillyInnovates. Follow Rich on Twitter @RichNegrin.

 

Philly311 TV: Parks and Recreation

The City of Philadelphia is proud to present season 2 of Philly311 TV. The show’s goal is to engage, educate, and empower citizens with information about city services. Through interviews with employees from across the municipality, citizens can learn about new initiatives, available resources, and get to know the personal side of city government. In this episode of Philly311 TV, host Rosetta Carrington Lue, sits down with First Deputy Commissioner, Sue Slawson. The two  discuss events and programming available in Philadelphia’s recreation centers, the R.E.A.C.H Program, and how the department is engaging the community. The Philly311 TV crew also visits two of Philadelphia’s most successful recreation centers: Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center and the Carousel House.

Tune-in to Philly311 TV on the Philly311 Youtube channel as well as Philadelphia’s Channel 64 at 7:00pm on Monday/Wednesday/Sunday and 7:00am on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday. You can also catch up with Philly311 TV on Sunday’s at 7:00am on PhillyCAM (Comcast Cable channel 66/966 or Verizon FIOS 29/30).

Looking for a Summer Job?

Did you know that the City of Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation Department hires around 1,600 summer workers every year? In this clip of Philly311 TV, First Deputy Commissioner, Sue Slawson talks to host Rosetta Carrington Lue about the City’s seasonal job opportunities. Find out how you can get involved

What is R.E.A.C.H?

Philly311 TV host, Rosetta Carrington Lue, visits North Philly’s Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center and learns about the city’s Parks and Recreations Department’s R.E.A.C.H Program. Rosetta speaks with R.E.A.C.H coordinator, Meka Perez, to find out the programs purpose and how it is helping to kids participate in their communities.

Have you been to the Carousel House? 

The Philly311 TV crew visits the Carousel House, the first recreation center in United States, sponsored by a municipality, dedicated to providing recreational services to people with disabilities. Rosetta takes a tour of the facility and discuses, the various year-long programs that the center provides, with the Carousel House’s director, Erica Young Carter.

 

PhillyRising’s Second Annual Conference is October 18th!

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Next Saturday, PhillyRising will be hosting its second annual conference at Temple University.

While last year’s conference was successful (packed with workshops, information booths, and discussions) this year’s conference was designed to truly embody the PhillyRising program: by serving residents.

Hosted at the intersection of five PhillyRising neighborhoods, the conference is action-based, aiming to serve as a drop-in event for citizens to quickly resolve issues. Through technology-enabled stations, city representatives will be equipped to enter service requests, answer questions, and resolve citizen concerns on-the-spot. Representatives from the following departments will be in attendance:

Community Life Improvement Program

The Community Life Improvement Programs (CLIP) consists of several programs and agencies dedicated to eradicating blight. These include the Community Partnership Program, which loans out tools and supplies for clean-ups, a vacant lot cleaning program, and a graffiti abatement team.

Financial Empowerment Centers

Philadelphia’s network of Financial Empowerment Centers provide free, high-quality, one-on-one financial counseling with professionally trained counselors from Clarifi.

Licenses and Inspections

The Department of Licenses and Inspections provides a wide range of services to advance development and ensure public safety in Philadelphia’s businesses and physical infrastructure sectors.

Philly311

3-1-1 is Philadelphia non-emergency call center, receiving requests for municipal services and information.

Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee

PMBC is a partnership between Philadelphia’s Streets Department and over 6,000 block captains to throughout the city to organize clean-ups and beautification projects.

Police Department

The Philadelphia Police Department is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for serving over 140 square miles of the city.

Streets Department

The Philadelphia Streets Department is responsible for maintaining the safety and cleanliness of the city’s entire street system.

Town Watch Integrated Services

Town Watch is a group of volunteers who observe and report suspicious or criminal activity in their communities and assist with neighborhood beautification projects.

In addition to the eight action stations, the conference will also offer trainings for Town Watch Intergrated Services and hold “Workforce Development” information sessions, discussing resume writing, interview skills, and other tools to help citizens find employment.

The conference will last from 9:00am-5:00pm at Temple University’s Mittwn Hall (1913 N. Broad Street). The opening ceremony will take place at 10:30am and feature remarks from PhillyRising’s Director, Adé Fuqua; Managing Director, Rich Negrin; and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, Everett Gillison. To register for the conference, visit prconference2014.tumblr.com.

And if this blog post, didn’t convince you to attend to conference, perhaps Pop-Pop will…

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