But there are many parts of this country where manufacturing is very much alive, albeit in a different form. The monolithic industry model — steel, oil, lumber, cars — has evolved into something more nimble and diversified…
As Mark Dwight, who started SFMade in 2010, explains, “For decades we have developed a culture of disposability — from consumer goods to medical instruments and machine tools. To fuel economic growth, marketers replaced longevity with planned obsolescence — and our mastery of technology has given birth to ever-accelerating unplanned obsolescence. I think there is increasing awareness that this is no longer sustainable on the scale we have developed.”
Things made in places like San Francisco or New York command a desire-by-association (though I’m also sure creative individuals in less name-brand locals could adopt many of the business synergies and sustainable efforts discussed here). To be sure, there may be a higher cost of doing business in major metropolitan centers like these, but at the same time what gets made is largely driven by design and by consumer demand. ..
Most cities right now are models of closed, rigid systems, systems that rely on a few, top-performing agents to get civic tasks done and keep quality of life high for residents. Most of these agents are departments of the city itself, though some are outsourced. Either way, cities rely on one agent per issue, no more. To use Amazon.com as an analogy, cities today are like an Amazon that only allows the #1 best-selling book from each category into its system.
A good number of cites are beginning to do deals with mega companies like Google and IBM, giving them access to city data so that they can build excellent tools for residents to use. This is a great thing. I love looking at Google Maps and seeing that bulging red line right next to my house indicating that traffic there is at a standstill so I should consider biking instead. Makes my life better.
Still, to use the Amazon analogy again, now these cities have allowed not just the #1 best-selling book from each category into the system, but best-seller #2, #3 and #4. It’s still a closed system of cherry-picked agents with privileged access.
And that’s about where a lot of people would choose to end the opening of cities’ data - giving unrestricted access to the Googles, Microsofts, and IBMs of the world. The rest get limited access, or access contingent upon satisfying some governmental board or other. (New York’s Mayor Bloomberg, who launched his Big Apps contest yesterday, is seemingly among this group.)
If we do that, of course, we’re missing out on what is potentially the biggest piece of the pie - the tail. That’s where a huge chunk of the value comes from.
So, imagine instead a city that has totally open, unrestricted access to data (say, San Francisco or DC in 2011). What does it look like? It has all of the familiar city-run departments providing all of the services and assistance they’ve always provided - that’s not going away. Then it also has public services offered by the mega companies, the Google Traffic, IBM’s Smarter Cities, and so forth. Those are huge added value to these open cities - they’re used by a large percentage of residents and make life in those cities better. But THEN, it also has an insane long tail of services set up and run by anyone with an interest in doing so, just by hooking into city data, distributing it in a new way, improving on it, mashing it up, giving it back to the city, etc. These services each individually get used by a small minority of people, but collectively they get used by more than any other single source in the city.
That’s the healthy, long tail city of the future in action: head, “meaty middle” and tail, all working together, all reinforcing each other, all driving each other forward.
DataSF is a central clearinghouse for datasets published by the City & County of San Francisco. The site allows you to find datasets in several ways: general search, tags/keywords, categories, and rating. The goal is to improve access to city data through open machine-readable formats. While the number and quality of datasets is increasing, we recognize there is much more that we can do. You can help by rating and commenting on existing datasets or by telling us what datasets we should make available to the public.
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