Street Sweeping, City Data and Community

September 1, 2011

Last week, I launched SweepAround.Us, a website that helps Chicagoans find out when street sweeping will occur in their neighborhood, and allows them to sign up for reminder emails. I was able to do so because of the fantastic work that John Tolva and Brett Goldstein have been doing at releasing the city's data in a format that's digestible for developers and citizens alike.


I mention this for two reasons: the first being an obvious, though useful, self-promotion; the second being of akin to the spirit of Built in Chicago: how to find good developers.


At most of the entrepreneurial get-togethers that I've been to, I have heard the same topic of discussion over and over, how do I find good developers? And, the answer often repeated, ask your current developers if they know of anyone. The answer is sound in theory, but rarely fruitful in practice. The truth is, our employees aren't as connected as we'd like them to be. That's one of the reasons that we're a part of this site, right?


If asked to name the best developers I know, I would probably rattle off a handful of people that I admire from afar, those who live in San Francisco or New York or elsewhere. I have an intimate knowledge of their day-to-day lives with the help of Twitter; I've learned many of my technical skills through their blog posts; and on occasion I've met them at a conference or emailed them to seek advice. If asked to limit my response to those who lived in Chicago, it might take me a little longer. The truth is, I spend a larger portion of my day interacting with the Internet Community than the Chicago Community. That is, until recently.


As I mentioned above, the city has been releasing data like mad. As a result, there is a growing community of civic-minded developers rallying to create useful applications, gathering at coffee houses, hack-a-thons and meet-ups. I have met a ton of bright, local programmers and designers. And, having worked with them on side projects, I have a good sense of their work ethic and skills, more so than I ever would have had I only glanced at their resume. 


I'd like to encourage you to tell your employees to join the growing community that surrounds the city's data. Not only will it benefit the city you live in to have more useful apps, but I think you'll also see the benefits when you next ask your employees if they know of any good developers, designers and business-minded folks.


To learn more about the city's data and community:

Open Government Chicago(-land) Meetup

The City of Chicago's Data Portal