These are the places near the place where police killed a boy in Chicago.

The place where teenager Laquan McDonald was murdered by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke seems desolate in the video of his death. He walks a few steps on a wide-open street with no traffic before dropping from bullets.

He laid dead in front of a bus stop and a sign heralding the construction of a new Marshalls store.

Laquan McDonald is dead

I’ve always been interested in proximity and geography— the physical reality of place. I was able to pursue this interest the most when I was at EveryBlock, where we cared about every block in every city we worked in. The idea that every block had a story, every area mattered, was at the core of EveryBlock. I still have a desire to know about blocks, especially important ones like this.

Laquan McDonald was killed in the 3900 block of South Pulaski. According to the Chicago Tribune’s Chicago Boundary Service, that is in the Archer Heights neighborhood.

A closer look of the area shows that it is full of activity. Full of old-line manufacturing and new tech companies and social services and connections to big-time philanthropy. Full of what we typically think is great about our city.

Just a block north of where this boy was killed is American Plating and Manufacturing. They make accessories for woodwind and brass instruments. That means clarinet and saxophone ligatures, lyres for marching bands, woodwind mouthpiece kits,  and silver-plated brass horn mouthpieces. Think for a moment, for a company that goes back to 1902, the physical reality of the mouths and metals across the world that can be traced back to this spot. The intense intimacy of music and breath, and what was snuffed out where those workers walk to lunch.

American Plating and Manufacturing

This kid was killed a block away from Maroon Biotech, which “has developed a new category of pharmaceuticals called surfactant chaperones. This technology has the capability to restore structure and viability to cells disrupted by physical and chemical trauma. By reversing post-traumatic molecular alterations, Maroon Biotech’s technology promises to improve recovery from vehicular, military and other types of severe traumatic injuries, electrical shock and reperfusion injury. The technology has already demonstrated effectiveness at treating experimental spinal cord injury, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and brain injury.” Notwithstanding proximity to where he lay dying, Maroon Biotech had nothing for Laquan McDonald. Maroon is a color associated with the University of Chicago.

Maroon Biotech

The adolescent Chicagoan was killed a block east of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which is located on a street named “Ann Lurie Place”, which I assume is named after Ann Lurie, who has been a significant benefactor for this place that provides an essential social service in this city. This is not an honorary street sign— this is a legit, green-colored city street sign.

Ann Lurie Street

Preferred Freezer Services is also on this block. They offer “the most modern, state-of-the-art, full service temperature-controlled warehouses in the United States”. Just like Carl Sandburg said: Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler.

This 17-year old was shot dead in front of Focal Point, a bustling and busy manufacturer of light fixtures. Sometimes people play ping-pong underneath lights made by Focal Point.

Focal Pont

Just a half-block east down 43rd lies Bagcraft Papercon. They make paper products for the restaurant industry. Their website shows so many happy people enjoying products inside their products.

Bagcraft Papercon Bagcraft Papercon Bagcraft Papercon Bagcraft Papercon

We all know about the Burger King, the one where it seems police deleted footage of their crime. That’s just north of where they shot him.


Three doors down from the Burger King, not far from where puffs of smoke rose from a dead boy, is the worldwide headquarters of Kronos Central Food. They make, among other things, gyros.



Everything on earth has a place. This is our city, all of it, for all of us. These are the places near the place where police killed a boy in Chicago.

Popularity + Impact in Volunteer Movements: Alcoholics Anonymous, Poetry Slams, and the Path to Impact for the Civic Innovation Movement

Here’s a presentation I’m giving here later today.


Hi, I’m Dan O’Neil, and I want to talk to you about popularity and impact in software. All of us here are somehow a part of the civic innovation sector of the technology industry, which has largely been a volunteer-driven movement.


There are some lessons to be had by looking at other volunteer-driven movements. Specifically, I want to dive in a tiny bit into other movements that I’ve seen up-close, first-hand, because the more I work in civic tech, the more I see value in these other examples.


I am a recovering alcoholic, and have been for some time. I have come to learn and appreciate this program, and it really helps me live a good life. I am also a poet. In the 1980s and 90s, I wrote books and did tours.


I considered myself— in kind of a windmill-tilting way— a member of the entertainment industry. It was a shtick. But the idea was real— that poetry should be at the center of society. And entertainment was— and still is— at the center of society.


And I am in civic tech. I made my first civic app in 1999. It was called It let people know via Wireless Application Protocol when there was a killer on the loose, and they might kill them. True story.


True story. And I’ve worked in civic tech since then. So I have experience with three separate international movements that are based on volunteer labor. Let’s take a closer look.


Alcoholics Anonymous is the most successful decentralized movement in history. There are explicitly no leaders. The whole thing is run, to this day, by principles + suggestions codified in 1939 + 1947.


The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous have not changed since they were first written down. More than 30 million copies exist. There are dozens of groups— we might even call them “projects” based on this text— Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous. Forked code; all of it.


The impact of this movement is widespread in the economy. A huge portion of the health industry, every self-help book. Hell, the entire 70s.


I’ve never competed in a poetry slam, but I was there at its creation. It, too, has a strict set of rules, and they are maintained over time by volunteers.


The rules specifically cover compensation, which is minimal. The winner of the Uptown Poetry Slam gets a $10 bill, presented dramatically onstage. The key is the joy of self-expression, of doing something that is special, unique.


Nearly 30 years after its creation, the poetry slam movement has achieved a certain National Poetry Month/ Sunday Styles section – level popularity. In contrast, rap & hip-hop— another sector of the entertainment industry that relies in some part of spoken word— is dominant, and generates enormous dollars.


Civic tech doesn’t really have a founding set of rules, but we’ve certainly developed routines and norms with hackathons and other volunteer / “for the civic good” programs.


We do have the 8 Principles of Open Government Data, which I helped write, in 2007. It specifically calls out the publication of data with personally identifiable information, noting (correctly) that it should not be published.


Due, in part, to the fact that there’s been little effort to re-combine personally identifiable information in our products, it’s fair to say that civic tech has generated little revenue and had little impact on culture. Meanwhile, the larger technology industry is taking over culture.


So what’s going on here? If we accept this analysis, what accounts for the vastly different impact patterns? To me, it’s a matter of framing and focus. AA is about product + service for the masses, poetry slam is about individual expression + satisfaction grown city by city.


And it’s the underlying attitude toward professionalization and commercialization that makes the difference. AA is radically indifferent— we’re focused on staying sober, not policing adherents. In contrast, the “Slam Masters” from each city that adopts the slam meet yearly. They enforce a sort of sameness that is palpable, and exclusionary.


The result is a default openness in AA. Onboarding is a breeze. People desperately want what people in recovery have— sobriety. Slams, in contrast, have complex modes of operation, full of insider references and tight networks. Above all, glorifying the singular poet with a microphone.


We have our own poets in civic tech, our own open mics, our own singular heroes. The result is separation and divorce. Meanwhile, aggressive startups, all about disruption and de-regulation, eat our lunch in our cities, building software people love.


They are popular. And through their popularity, they have impact. And we don’t make popular things. And we have to, because we’re better than everyone else. The larger technology industry needs us. Let’s make products, not projects.

Results of Belleville Police Department Alcohol Compliance Check

The following information was provided by the Belleville Police Department:

On Thursday January 31st 2013 the Belleville Police Department conducted an “Alcohol Compliance Check” at eleven (11) locations licensed to sell liquor in the city of Belleville. Of the locations checked three had employees who sold alcohol to a minor working with officers.

The following are the businesses that were checked and passed by refusing to sell to the minor.
Blue Agave 307 East Main St.
Centerfield Tavern 1403 East A St.
Circle K 9618 West Main St.
Circle K 10 South Belt West
Fletcher’s Kitchen and Tap 6101 West Main St.
Foley’s Tavern 7714 West Main St.
Silver Creek Saloon 2520 Mascoutah Ave.

The following businesses and their employees sold to the minor.
Belleville Quick Shop 7311 Old St. Louis Rd. Jumah A. Elhajjat w/m 29 Belleville
Shenanigan’s 6401 West Main St. Amber Hopkins w/f 29 Belleville
Circle K 2709 West Main St. Katina Scott b/f 40 Belleville

The Belleville Police Department thanks the owners and employees of the business of Belleville that remain vigilant in checking ID’s of customers purchasing liquor and refusing to sell to minors.

Nice data!