What New Yorkers complain about

Wired, in collaboration with Pitch Interactive, has a look at complaints called in over the 311 line in New York. The above is a sample from a week in September, and complaints are plotted by time of day, via the streamgraph approach. As you might expect, there's a greater proportion of noise complaints at night and early morning, along with lots of road-related complaints during the day.

The most interesting part of the story though is how the government is actually making use of this data:

Each complaint is logged, tagged, and mapped to make it available for subsequent analysis. In some cases, 311 simply helps New York respond more intelligently to needs that were obvious to begin with. Holidays, for example, spark reliable surges in call volume, with questions about government closings and parking regulations. On snow days, call volume spikes precipitously, which 311 anticipates with recorded messages about school closings and parking rules.

But the service also helps city leaders detect patterns that might otherwise have escaped notice. After the first survey of 311 complaints ranked excessive noise as the number one source of irritation among residents, the Bloomberg administration instituted a series of noise-abatement programs, going after the offenders whom callers complained about most often (that means you, Mister Softee).

We seem to always associate government data as a means to holding politicians accountable for their actions—as a way for us to point fingers at the government. And this is true and important. But data (and resulting apps) can also be used by the government to keep track of what's important to the people they're trying to help.

[Wired via @pitchinteractiv]

1 Comment


The Most Unisex Names in US History

Moving on from the most trendy names in US history, let’s look at the most unisex ones. Some names have …

Reviving the Statistical Atlas of the United States with New Data

Due to budget cuts, there is no plan for an updated atlas. So I recreated the original 1870 Atlas using today’s publicly available data.

19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind and Change the Way You See the World. Top All-time. You Won’t Believe Your Eyes. Watch.

Many lists of maps promise to change the way you see the world, but this one actually does.

Jobs Charted by State and Salary

Jobs and pay can vary a lot depending on where you live, based on 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here’s an interactive to look.