Michael Norelli could have called the city about a blocked street drain in his neighborhood. But he cleared it himself, then kept on clearing it in storm after storm — a simple do-it-yourself action that eventually led him to a civic tech team and even some notoriety with OpenOakland, Code for America's brigade in Oakland, CA.
What does Open Budget Oakland need? What do most civic tech groups need? OBO has got a coder, it’s got someone with political connections, it’s got a UX designer, and others. It still needs a better way to help people use the site. A storyteller.
An LCD display hanging in a neighborhood art project's entryway for any passerby mapped a neighborhood's parties. That posed a risk. But small as it was, did it offer a long term, unseen benefit?
To watch a meeting of developers and others building an air-quality related app is to see a snapshot of the civic tech movement today. Civic tech projects start out looking like it’s all about technology. But the more you look, the more you see that “civic” -- meaning the development team, the people who’ll use their app, and anyone who might someday find value in their work — swings way more weight than “tech” ever will.
If you were in ancient Rome looking for signs of the big fall, you wouldn't look in the headlines. You'd have to look closely for small signs, faint signals. You'd have to keep watching day after day and year after year. That's roughly what Eric Schnurer argues in a long comment to a recent article in The Atlantic on Rome's slow fall, "Why Local Innovation Is the Answer." Small things, he writes, often have "large-scale effects but play out on the level of individual grains of sand."