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SeeClickFix for iPhone helps communities help themselves


One of the oft-unsung but quite awesome things about living in New York City is our urban help line, NYC 311. Whether it's a leaky hydrant or a burnt-out streetlamp, a missing manhole cover or a mixed-up parking sign: there's only one number to call for any non-emergency question, and they will track down the information you need. I'm pretty sure that the only time I've stumped the 311 team was when I called to ask who could help evict the family of stray cats that had set up housekeeping in our backyard-the verdict was that I had to trap the whole colony before they could come and collect the furry trespassers.

A centralized helpline and problem reporting infrastructure is great for megaburgs like New York, but what kind of resources are smaller communities turning to when they need to know what's broken? One website is trying to leverage the power of citizen self-organization to help cities keep things working: SeeClickFix. Founded in New Haven and inspired by, the site allows participants to report issues and concerns, define 'watch areas' where they can be notified of problems, and generally help their towns help themselves.

The SCF team has just released version 1.0 of the site's iPhone app [iTunes link], which allows participants to report issues right from their phones, complete with geotag to provide the map location of the problem. Version 1.2, in the works, will let iPhone users vote on problems and close them out without going to the website.

How have you used your iPhone or your Mac to do something positive for your community today?

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