Today’s big news was the launch of EveryBlock. A product of a team of developers including wunderkind of the moment, Adrain Holovaty, the site launched to a great deal of fanfare. Covering Chicago, San Francisco, and New York (to start), EveryBlock provides local news and information down to the block level. The information comes from a myriad of sources, including newspapers, blogs, Craigslist, Yelp, and government databases. Brad Flora on The Methods Blog has a great rundown of the site and the information it contains.
TechCrunch also covers the launch and as is usually the case, the readers’ comments are a highlight of the post. A lot of the early, cynical comments suggest that much of this has been done before and wonders how the site can make money. Holovaty answers by pointing out that much of EveryBlock’s government data existed in inconvenient formats (e.g. pdf files) and hadn’t been aggregated before. As for making money, well, Holovaty notes that the project is non-profit.
I find it really interesting when people see these kinds of information aggregations as yawners. This is because of what they know already exists on the web, as opposed to what actually exists. We’ve become so used to having all kinds of data at our fingertips that unless you’ve ever tried to find some of this stuff, you really don’t know how difficult, or tedious, it is to locate. It means the bar is that much higher for those of us actually trying to bring it all together.
I agree with some of the commenters who think EveryBlock isn’t a business, but that misses the point. The EveryBlock team has put this site together with a goal of “experimenting with new forms of journalism.” (Of course, this doesn’t help those who actually need to make money with new forms of journalism.) This would fit nicely as a feature on a newspaper site, not only as its own section, but also as an engine to power supplementary information for news stories and other items. It would be a great addition to community sites like YourHub and NeighborsGo. Think too about all of that data newspapers collect for feature stories. It’s often some kind of government data that is only used for the original report. With an EveryBlock kind of product that data could be added to the database, making it more and more robust as time goes on.
The EveryBlock team has done a nice job with this site so far and I think it serves the Knight News Challenge‘s goal of transforming community news. Experiments like these provide the inspiration, and now it’s up to the next wave to extend and refine.