All posts by Daniel X. O'Neil

Systems Used in Chicago School of Data Communications, Organizing, and Event Planning

“Open” is one of our principles here at Smart Chicago. Right now, most of the small staff and talented consultants who work here are working on our Chicago School of Data project. As is our wont, based on our software philosophy, (“making the smallest amount of software to be useful to the largest amount of people in connecting residents to their government, their institutions, and each other”), we are using lots of lightweight tools to get things done. Here’s a look at them:

Eventbrite: We use this leading ticket tool for managing conference attendance. We have an event page and we get individual emails every time someone signs up to come to the conference on September 19 and 20, 2014. We’re going to use the Eventbrite API to pick up all of the information from event signups and write that to our master list.

Mailchimp: We use Mailchimp in all sorts of our work here– we love it. Great API, great analytics, and easy-to-use email templates. We use it in this project to manage our communication to potential and actual attendees. Their segmenting tools are great, so we’re able to send different emails to people who are already signed up for the conference and people who have yet to get started with our initial data census form.

Wufoo: Wufoo is a wonder. It’s probably the most essential outside tool for us, because it helps us gather so much information and it has a great API that allows us to pull that info into other systems we maintain, include Patterns, which is an in-house tool we use to manage our Civic User Testing Group. We’re using it to

WordPress: We use WordPress for all sorts of websites, including our own. We’re making the conference website using WordPress, and we will be using all sorts of plugins and APIs to use data we collected from other tools. Since lots of the info we want to put on this site is being collected via Wufoo forms, we’ll probably be using something like

Dropbox:  We have a Dropbox for Business account where we keep all of our key documents and do lots of sharing with our core stakeholder team. We also use Dropbox integration with Wufoo to allow organizations to upload examples of datasets and reports that they use in their daily work.

Google Docs: We use Google Docs and Sheets mainly for project management and joint composition of things like the agenda and draft emails. All of this content ends up in other systems via simple copy/ paste— no API needed!

Evernote: We used this early on, when doing some initial interviews. We also stored individual complete audio transcripts of interviews, which were later

Microsoft Excel: We are working with Oprima-1, a bilingual call center, to do research on and outlook to Chicago organizations that use data to make lives better.They send us daily reports on their work, and we now (after the fact– argghh!) are working to embed that into our own knowledge about these places.

Josh Kalov, who works with Smart Chicago on the Cook County Open Data project and other items, is pulling all of these tools into a cohesive system. More to come!

Meantime, here’s a picture of an awesome Brutalist parking lot in Baltimore, where I was for their Data Day.

Brutalist Parking Lot Entrances!

Brutalist Parking Lot Entrances!

Eliminate the Digital Divide Advisory Committee Working Meeting

I chair the Eliminate the Digital Divide Advisory Committee , which advises the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in establishing criteria and procedures for identifying recipients of grants under the Digital Divide Elimination Act.

Here’s meeting notes:


Kyla Williams on WBEZ Tech Shift, Talking Chicago Health Atlas

Here’s Kyla WIlliams of Smart Chicago talking about our Chicago Health Atlas project.

For the past year Chicago Health Atlas has tracked the growing amount of health data available to Chicago residents. The hope is that bringing all the information together in one place can help Chicagoans start to improve their own health. Smart Chicago Collaborative Program Officer Kyla Williams oversees the project and joins us in studio to talk about it.

Livestream: Doing Business with Cook County’s Land Banks Training on July 24

Smart Chicago is working with the Cook County Land Bank and other organizations to conduct free training on how to do business with the land bank.

We’ll have a live stream below starting at 10:00am:

Christopher Whitaker and Josh Kalov will conduct a session on how to locate information about properties using myriad public data and online tools. Here’s more info on the training, which is set for July 24, 2014, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Cook County Land Bank Authority and South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority are open for business, ready and able to work with residents, organizations and businesses to put more than 55,000 vacant and abandoned homes, buildings and parcels back into productive use. The land banks and the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), in partnership with Chicago Rehab Network, Community Investment Corporation, Neighborhood Housing Services and Smart Chicago Collaborative, invite you to learn about opportunities to partner with the land banks by attending this free workshop.

This interactive workshop will outline the land banks’ policies, powers and limitations and explain how community development corporations, neighborhood organizations, developers and investors can tap the land banks as resources. Through case studies and best practices, as well as a resource guide, the workshop will cover topics including researching vacant properties, identifying financing options and determining the feasibility of projects.