SeeClickFix expands to Facebook


It’s Mark Zuckerberg’s world. The rest of us are just visiting. So it makes sense that SeeClickFix has developed a Facebook app. SeeClickFix, based in New Haven, combines mapping and social media so that citizens, government officials and the local press can identify and solve neighborhood problems ranging from potholes to prostitution.

I installed the app a little while ago, and — believe me — I don’t install Facebook apps lightly. (I’ll probably delete it later, especially if it starts sending me messages.) It looks like the entire SeeClickFix experience has been ported over to the Facebook environment. Users can report problems and pinpoint them on a Google map, thus alerting government officials and the news media. I am far from being the world’s biggest Facebook fan, but it’s a smart move, given how much time people spend there.

SeeClickFix has media partners around the world. The New Haven Independent, a non-profit community website, features the SeeClickFix RSS feed for New Haven on its home page. Boston.com’s pothole map is powered by SeeClickFix.

Last May, I interviewed SeeClickFix co-founder and chief executive Ben Berkowitz at his New Haven office. The video of that interview is above. I also profiled SeeClickFix for the Guardian.

Meet two young media entrepreneurs

Christine Stuart

Connecticut Magazine has released its list of “40 Under 40” — that is, 40 Connecticut residents under 40 who are making a difference. And it turns out that two of them have been the subject of video interviews on Media Nation. Among those named were:

  • Christine Stuart, 33, who runs the Hartford-based Statehouse news site CT News Junkie (she doubles as the New Haven Independent‘s Statehouse bureau chief).
  • New Haven’s Ben Berkowitz, 31, co-founder of SeeClickFix, an interactive website that uses mapping and discussion boards to connect citizens, government and the media to deal with community problems.

You can see my interview with Stuart here. Berkowitz is here.

 

Crowdsourcing and community journalism

In my latest for the Guardian, I follow up my recent interview with SeeClickFix co-founder and chief executive Ben Berkowitz by taking a look at how news organizations such as the New Haven Independent and the Boston Globe have put its tools to work.

Bringing together citizens, government and media


SeeClickFix is an interactive website that lets users report problems in their communities and plot them on a Google map. Because it’s an open forum, local officials can check in to see where trouble spots are, and news organizations can track them as well. The New Haven Independent is one of many news sites that posts the RSS feed for its community. The interactive pothole map at Boston.com is powered by SeeClickFix as well.

On May 18 I had a chance to sit down with SeeClickFix co-founder and chief executive Ben Berkowitz in his second-floor office in downtown New Haven. Berkowitz, a hyperkinetic 31-year-old, had forgotten we were supposed to meet, but he graciously agreed to a video interview despite having a full agenda.

Berkowitz describes SeeClickFix as “citizens working collectively,” and explains that he started it three years ago when he was trying to get graffiti cleaned up in his neighborhood. The site has been growing rapidly since the New York Times published a feature story on it in January.

Today, the company has some 400 media partners and employs five people thanks to a $25,000 We Media prize and several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of venture capital. Although the basic service is free, SeeClickFix charges media sites for certain premium services, and posts advertising as well.

One aspect of Berkowitz’s philosophy that I found particularly interesting was his insistence that SeeClickFix is not just for holding government accountable — citizens, too, should take responsibility. As an example, he pointed to a similar project, the British website FixMyStreet — a great name that he nevertheless doesn’t like, he says, because it removes accountability from citizens and places it entirely on the government.

Does Berkowitz, who previously worked as a Web designer, consider himself a journalist? He pauses before answering. “I think SeeClickFix is a tool for journalists,” he replies. “I don’t think that I am a journalist. I don’t think of us as a news organization.”

For a good example of how journalists can use SeeClickFix as a reporting tool, see this story on “the ugliest storefront on Chapel Street” in the New Haven Independent.

Mapping potholes with help from readers

Boston.com is using SeeClickFix to produce a pothole map for Greater Boston. The New York Times recently reported on SeeClickFix, which is based in New Haven. Simple technology plus community interaction — what more do you want?