This project is going much slower and taking much longer than hoped for, mostly because it is currently a solo project (though I’ve been talking to a few people to join up). I’m doing it all from face of the company to data entry duties. I’m looking for interested people to help out on this project. There’s plenty of work to go around.
The goal of this site is to create daily activity and communication on Citizen Intelligence. For 39 days it has been a daily success. Yesterday was the second missed day (the first was January 17th). It would be relatively easy to back date a post and pretend to have made deadline. Before I got the time zone set right a few posts we’re reset that way. But pretending would not be consistent with the core values that are necessary for Citizen Intelligence to be a long term success. Unflinching honesty, especially when nobody is watching, is a core part of the company’s value to its customers.
Andy Kessler mostly talks sense in the Wall Street Journal about the slow pace of fiber adoption. His solution attacks a well guarded door, national telecom policy. It’s clash of the titans over at the FCC and the lobbying money is flying in all directions. But there’s a much less guarded door. Setting up a fiber advocacy kit in a box in every municipality that is lacking high speed access. In traditional politics, that’s a prohibitively expensive proposition, completely impractical on a widespread basis. In a world with Citizen Intelligence deployed, the cost to do such a thing drops a great deal, perhaps to the point where it would become more practical than marching on Washington and dictating a right-of-way policy via the federal government.
Once the boring bits of Citizen Intelligence are developed and the reports deployed, pulling together a national operation like Google fiber with a home grown front end in a co-op becomes less daunting. Think of it as the Ace Hardware business model moved over to telecom. People don’t generally think in these terms because all of these governments are opaque to everybody except for locals and there’s no easy way to get insight into all of them quickly and inexpensively. Creating and making available conduits to get access to information that’s already published and seek answers inexpensively is a game changer.
Seth Sunday’s back and Seth recently took a pointed look at the marketing risk of inventing new words. He downgrades the importance of precision in favor of not making your customers work to hard figuring out your value proposition. If you need to do it because there simply isn’t a way to describe it using familiar words that’s one thing but he’s quite right that sometimes it’s better to adopt a category that is familiar even when it doesn’t cover even a significant minority of what your offering accomplishes.
The iPhone is not a very good phone. That’s because the iPhone is a mobile computer that happens to also be a phone as one of the applications included on it. The market niche for an accurately described iPhone is significantly smaller than the market that it currently occupies.
So what’s the market niche for Citizen Intelligence? It’s a business intelligence product. But like the iPhone as mobile computer, the BI niche is really a great deal smaller than another possible fit, news. Newspapers (news you read), radio (news you hear), and TV (news you watch) are all potential niches. In fact, creating delivery conduits along all three traditional paths are in the plan. In the end, they’re each just a different style of data cube.
I just ran through a quick data survey. How many participants in data.gov are actually complying with the Obama administration’s open data initiative directive to publish all the public data sets at <site name>/data.json. It turns out the answer is about 16%. It was a quick data survey because I could quickly setup a web viewer with that url and just iterate through a couple of hundred data.gov participants and mark the entries that came up with json. It was about a third of the time necessary for the first run through.
I had theorized that as data is filled in, subsequent runs grow faster. It’s nice to see that in practice and that the effect is pretty large. I can see things working even faster in future as I move from semi-automation to full automation.
Up to now I’ve been very carefully not coding solutions. It’s not my strength and there were so many other things to do. Since data structures are such a large part of the business, I can get a lot further than most by just doing RAD development and making Filemaker rigs to build out databases that never need to see the light of day and just use them to prototype and work out the problems prior to actually committing to code.
Every time I hit something that Filemaker doesn’t do very well, I’m tempted to ditch this model and code something. When I give into temptation, I quickly remember why I set up this structure at the beginning of the project. The latest temptation is JSON. Filemaker’s JSON facilities are not that robust. In fact, the native capabilities seem nonexistent. So the temptation is to build out some final code in another tool that has better JSON handling facilities.
Let’s see this time how soon the impulse passes.
While I still am digesting open data, I do have to take a break occasionally and during one of them today, I ran across a post from James Altucher that pairs the Hare Krishnas and Louis CK as both using the law of reciprocity and commitment bias to get people to go along with them in ways that they might not otherwise do. Reviewing how I pitch Citizen Intelligence, I’ve been doing very little of this. At least now I’ll have something new to chew over as I hunt down APIs and JSONs via Data.gov.
Today is mostly data entry, building up data structures, and re-estimated the cost to implement the non-money making portions of Citizen Intelligence downward. That makes it a good day. About a fourth of data.gov sites seem to have APIs so far but no doubt that’s going to rise as time goes on. It’s all thanks to President Obama’s Open Government Initiative. Hats off on this one because over the next decade or so we’re likely going to be able to settle a number of policy arguments that the left and right have been going back and forth on for decades about.
The original concept of Citizen Intelligence has just taken a turn for the better. A big chunk of the non-money making parts of the plan end up being already under development in Project Open Data. This is tremendously good news for Citizen Intelligence. Not having to independently develop these capabilities is a relief and a validation of the need for the company. Citizen Intelligence certainly didn’t lobby for their creation.
Intermediate tools do not solve the problem of stuffing the necessary information into the time available to oversee your governments. It certainly makes solving the problems quicker and cheaper.