Category Archives: Open Data

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!

An Appreciation of Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz, an Internet freedom leader, committed suicide yesterday, January 11, 2013, in New York. On this page of his personal Web site, he gives instructions about what to do if he gets hit by a truck. One of the instructions: “Feel free to publish things people say about me on the site”.

I have some things to say about you, Aaron:

  • I always felt smaller when I was with you. You were just plain smarter than me. Your cool quiet smirk made me feel like I was catching up all the time. You knew things that I was four sentences away from knowing. Made my mind breathless.
  • Your youth made me feel paternal, and your intellect made me feel little-brother. As the father of two boys and the younger brother of six, I have a lot of experience with both. You made both those cello strings move in me.
  • You had more guts than me. An odd, rock-like purity. Hard, and impermeable. I wished I could be like that, and was also glad that I couldn’t be like that. This is not a comfortable dichotomy.
  • What really made me cry today was Larry: “We are all incredibly sorry to have let you down.”
  • I’m so thankful for what you did with your time on Earth. Thank you.


Picture 6

On the Use of Private Data to Improve Lives (Five Data Sources You Can Use Now to Make a New Business)

I have long been been a proponent of open government data, and I’ve made a lot of products that use it. I’ve helped a number of cities, including my own, in publishing data and coming up with good policies.

Over the last couple years, however, I’ve turned my attention to the vast troves of private data that could be used to build businesses and make lives better. I even started a Web site called “Analycize” to hold a future project to this affect, and I have great hopes for this in the future.

I’ve written quite a bit about this and published a goodly amount of  my own data over the last year or so, and I wanted to pull it all together into one post. Here’s the info:

Hidden Personal Data and the Passionate Stories Within, focused on Illinois Tollway data

Here’s a tweet about my Chicago Transit Authority trip data and the raw data:

Here’s a pretty big one— a year’s worth of my exercise, food, and sleep activities for a year as tracked on Fitbit, a leading quantified self toolAll of that data is in this massive spreadsheet.

There are two more sources of private data that relate to my children, so I’m not super-prepared to publish the info. But they are indicative of the types of systems that contain vast data (and easy extraction) but a paucity of tools to use it to make lives better.

One is MyMealTime, which is a way for schools to manage lunch, including a Point of Sale system and and online system for viewing and managing transactions and available lunch money. Upshot: I have a record of every item each of my children has purchased for lunch since May 2007.

MealTime Online - Details

Another is my kid’s grades and other school performance data, which is managed in a tool called TeacherEase. I’ve got six years worth of this data, all of it accessible with a simple scraper.

TeacherEase- Parent Main

Open data isn’t just for governments anymore. There’s a lot of room for products here, sheeple!


Hidden Personal Data and the Passionate Stories Within

Lately I’ve been collecting and publishing data about myself from disparate places. For instance, the CTA allows you to download the last 90 days of your travel history– here’s a block of mine. I’m working on collecting the last 5 years of every item each of my children has purchased for lunch at school. By “working on”, I mean “using a dropdown menu to display each month’s work of records and copy-pasting them into a Google spreadsheet”. Here’s a shot of this screen, so you can see how well-formatted it is:

Illinois Tollway Use Dat

Here’s a pretty good one: if you have an I-Pass, one of those transponders that automatically charges your bank account for tolls on the Illinois toll system, you can log in to your I-PASS account and be delivered a list of the last two years worth of tolls you’ve paid. Here’s mine:

Some possible points of narrative:

  • Each day represents parenting to me. My children live with their mother in the western suburbs, and basically every one of these trips is me going out there to parent them
  • Two first days of school are visible in there, including August 22 of this year, when I passed through the toll near O’Hare at 6:34 AM their home at
  • You can tell whether I start the journey from home or downtown
  • You can get a rough indication of traffic volume based on how long it took me to get from one tollbooth to another
  • You can see a basic rhythm of my life in this data

Data wants to be connected.