closed data

my initial idea for the social hacking API assignment forked into a few different projects.

@nyclandlord twitter bot: the idea for this bot was that it would tweet things like

  • “just kicked out a tenant at [address]” — this would come from eviction data
  • “just bumped the rent at [address]” — this data set doesn’t exist
  • “successfully gentrifying on [block] in [neighborhood] today” — this would be a combo of historical rent changes? maybe?
  • “still ignoring tenants at [address]” — this would come from housing code violations, AN ACTUAL COMPREHENSIVE DATA SET WITH LOTS OF DATA
  • “#winning at #gentrification today”

i got a version of the bot up and running, and i still have the twitter handle. the problem is that most of these data sets don’t exist in a ready-to-use way. they are their own research projects in themselves. which i would love to do, but not in a week. that problem inspired what i ultimately ended up making for this assignment (called “closed data” here).

if 596 acres + had a baby: the idea behind this long-term project is adding organizing capability to website, or doing the 596 acres website around rent stabilized apartments. it’s ridiculous that there is no publicly available database where tenants can check whether they are rent stabilized. they have to call the city, they have to follow up, they have to check the historical rent of their own apartment. the onus falls completely on the tenant. and then! there’s no way for future tenants of that apartment or in that building to benefit from the research that has come before them. so why not let tenants publish their findings on an apartment or building’s specific page? like a social media profile, but for a space?

this is obviously beyond the scope of a week-long assignment. i also don’t think it qualifies as “creative misuse of the API” because it’s exactly what APIs are for: making new databases from existing databases.

closed data: the thing i ultimately made, here. this grew out of my frustration trying to find a single database that could tell me whether or not (not whether maybe possibly) my apartment was rent stabilized. after many propublica rabbit holes and hours spent on both the city and the state’s open data platforms, i am coming to the conclusion that the city has open data platforms so they can

  1. bleat about their transparency, in a positive sense (e.g., “we are so open! make apps with our openness!”)
  2. bleat about their transparency, to avoid negative feedback (e.g., “police brutality? rent hikes? show us in the data. it’s all open!”)

except it’s not all open and it’s not all usable. “closed data” uses the names of all the existing nyc open data sets i could find. and that’s all i have to say about that.

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