For OpenBlock, Big Improvements From Small Newsrooms

at Ideas Lab: “A little more than five months after NBC News shut down its hyperlocal product,, the original open-source application has been resurrected in Columbia, Mo. But although both products were born of the same Django codebase and Knight Foundation funding, visitors to The Columbia Daily Tribune’s new Neighborhoods site will see a different emphasis and a new hope for a project that has slowed under the weight of government disability and technical complexity….The user interface is clean and smart, and the government data — which is the most difficult of any kind of data to mine — appears to be more current and complete than any OpenBlock installation has seen since the very early days before its code was made public.
That kind of commitment is needed for OpenBlock to succeed, because pulling digital records out of all but the very most efficient and transparent government agencies is a tremendous drag on the expense side of the news business. That difficulty, though, can also create an opportunity for outsized revenue.
Chris Gubbels, the Web developer who’s been overseeing the project for The Tribune, said that unlike many jurisdictions, Columbia’s police and fire data were “pretty simple” to pull into OpenBlock. The police even provided The Tribune with an RSS feed of geocoded 911 response calls.”