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Over 10,000 Problems Fixed In Detroit Thanks To Cellphone App ( 159

An anonymous reader writes: Six months ago, Detroit's city officials launched a smartphone app called "Improve Detroit." The idea was to give residents a way to easily inform city hall of problems that needed to be fixed. For example: potholes, abandoned vehicles, broken hydrants and traffic lights, water leaks, and more. Since that time, over 10,000 issues have been fixed thanks to reports from that app. "Residents have long complained about city hall ignoring litter and broken utilities. But the app has provided a more transparent and direct approach to fixing problems." Perhaps most significant is its effect on the water supply: running water has been shut off to almost a thousand abandoned structures, and over 500 water main breaks have been located with the app's help. Crowd-sourced city improvement — imagine if apps like this become ubiquitous.
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Over 10,000 Problems Fixed In Detroit Thanks To Cellphone App

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  • What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @12:23AM (#50697495) Homepage

    How is this any different than calling them up and telling them what is broken?

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Funny)

      by fisted ( 2295862 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @12:30AM (#50697507)

      Because it is an app. Like, the future! Also very cyber.

    • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 10, 2015 @12:31AM (#50697511)

      Who calls anyone?

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 10, 2015 @12:31AM (#50697513)

      “It saves time, it gets results, and I love how I can follow the progress being made on the complaint,” said Dan Wroblewski, who lives on Detroit’s far west side and uses the app to report issues while patrolling his neighborhood.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You have to wait for ppl to answer the phone, you have to call during office hours, they can ignore your complaint, it is difficult to track the progress..
      It's like saying why do you need an app to bank when you can just call the bank...

      • And spend 10 minutes on hold, having to explain the situation to some dime-a-dozen call center serf who's not competent for the job and unfamilliar with the neighborhood...
        • by Anonymous Coward

          And spend 10 minutes on hold, having to explain the situation to some dime-a-dozen call center serf who's not competent for the job and unfamilliar with the neighborhood...

          Having worked in a technical support centre (cum call centre for a once major telecommunications company) let me say the job was thankless in the eyes of management. It was not the clients who were abusive to the staff, it was management. As the company continued loosing market share the push to outsource technical support to lesser qualified support staff intensified.

          • Yup. After a while one feels like a janitor -- only noticed when part of the floor goes unwaxed. Which is why companies like Intel thrive -- CEO is/was a major techie (Chem Eng). Same for Microsoft, of course. Companies ignore their technical side at their peril.
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @12:53AM (#50697547)

      Automatically goes into an issue-tracking system, instead of needing to be manually entered. Cutting out the person on the other end makes things faster, and lets more of the budget be put to fixing problems instead of overhead.

      There may be other, lesser advantages. It could let them provide photos or GPS coordinates, or have an easier follow-up process to make sure the problem was actually fixed.

      • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by swb ( 14022 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @06:22AM (#50698173)

        In Minneapolis we have a "311" system which is supposed to serve a similar purpose -- report potholes, etc. I was just thinking how much better it would be if I could go stand right on top of this one pothole and get the GPS coordinates of it and send in a picture of it.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          I want an app that uses my phone's accelerometer to report problems with the road surface automatically. Combining reports over time and a number of users to get rid of false positives.

          • by swb ( 14022 )

            I'm not sure how easy it would be to normalize different vehicle suspensions. You'd have to have some kind of test road with a known surface quality that the car could be driven on the calibrate the app to the car.

            I'd like to see municipal vehicles and maybe buses equipped with scanners that could map the actual road surface.

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

              Just use an average and look for outliers. With many vehicles covering the same roads the odd clunker will be quickly filtered out.

              I like your scanner idea. In Japan they use tunnel inspection vehicles with cameras and lasers to produce a 3D map on the inside. A simpler system could be fitted to public vehicles. In fact even just a downward facing camera would be very useful, as it could be paired up with accelerometer data to give staff an instant view of the road surface at problem locations.

          • Hmm, in my city it'd be going off all the time. It seems construction crews around here can't install a manhole cover level with the road to save their life...

            • by swb ( 14022 )

              I read an interview with a local municipal maintenance guy who said that they use plastic shims on manholes to get them up to level with the road.

              They must not use them much, because seldom are they flush. Usually they're obnoxiously below grade.

        • the city of Edmonton, Alberta has this in their 311 app. took a pic of a pothole earlier this year, phone asked to use location, allowed it and entered a description/location. i put a takeout coffee cup in the hole for scale, and also because it amused me. hole was fixed within a month. you can track all of the various reports made (road damage, graffiti, abandoned vehicles) on a map right in app. even allows anonymous submissions, though who really knows just how anonymous it is. pretty damn handy.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Joe Haskins ( 820062 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @07:34AM (#50698319)

        gman003 is correct on all counts. Photos and GPS coordinates make it easier for the workers to find the problem (some, but certainly not all, of the workers aren't very motivated & don't exactly look hard). It also allows anyone to see tickets, comment on them, or even reopen closed tickets. If something gets marked as resolved when it wasn't, any citizen can reopen that ticket and add a comment saying that is wasn't done.

        Years ago, Detroit has a 311 system that was supposed to track complaints and give you a ticket number. Besides the obvious disadvantages of the phone system, a number of city departments did not participate so you never knew who to call. If you had to call the department directly, it wasn't always immediately obvious what number to call to report a problem and there was zero accountability.

        As Dan mentioned in the article, the app does get results. The resolution times can vary depending on what type of issue it is and what department handles that. I've seen dumping issues take up to a week to get someone out to investigate but I've also seen pothole issues resolved within a couple days (previous response time was often measured in months if you were lucky).

        I don't know how true it is, but I've also been told that the mayor watches the system and uses it to hold department heads accountable. I do know if something does go unresolved for a long time, I have proof that I can take to my city council member. Even though the departments don't technically report to the city council, getting a call from a council member's office does seem to motivate them.

      • You've never worked with a ticket system where submits come directly from end users, have you?

        The human taking the input will almost always have a better output that will save time on the other end by clarifying and confirming things that aren't going to happen in the app.

        The only difference here is that they told people about the app, causing interest in it.

        Running an ad campaign reminding people that they could call in would have been just as effective

        • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

          Running an ad campaign reminding people that they could call in would have been just as effective

          You must not actually deal with people. I am not sure that hermits living in their mothers' basements really have a proper perspective. On anything.

        • This is very different from reporting software defects.

          If there's a pothole, all you really need is a photo of the pothole, and the GPS coordinates. Selecting a category of "pot hole" or "roads" would be useful.

          It doesn't need software version, OS version, steps to reproduce, test data etc. that you may need on a software defect.

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @12:56AM (#50697557) Homepage Journal

      You get to skip the phone tree system, the hold music, the condescending tone of the person on the other side. You also get more accurate location information, and the whole system is routed directly in to an electronic ticketing system - no paper TPS reports required!

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fragMasterFlash ( 989911 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @01:07AM (#50697587)

      How is this any different than calling them up and telling them what is broken?

      Thank you for calling the City of Detroit. Para obtener instrucciones en español por favor presione 1 ahora. Your call is very important to us. Due to the current high volume of calls it will be approximately NINETY-ONE minutes until a representative is available to take your call. To leave your phone number for a call back instead press 3 now,

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You have selected regicide! If you know the name of the king or queen being murdered, please press 4...

    • Lets just hope it does not breed vigilantes .
    • by Anonymous Coward

      1) I don't want to be on hold.
      2) The person on the other end of the phone may not be right person, I may need to be transferred.
      3) The person may say they wrote it down, but didn't.
      4) The person may say they wrote it down, but wrote it down wrong.
      5) I may be told I called the wrong number.
      6) The person may be out to lunch.
      7) Voice mail could be full.
      8) Voice mail might be wrong number with no human to tell me otherwise.
      9) Automated systems, if they have one, are a major hassle listening to each option and c

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Other than having to wait on the phone for an hour to lodge a complaint, assuming you even know the right number to dial?

    • The phone's camera and GPS mean you don't have to depend on the user to verbally describe the problem and location.

    • Fundamentally? Not at all. In terms of convenience? The fancy tech toys presumably make it fairly trivial to construct a nice machine-readable trouble ticket, with GPS coordinates, user submitted text, pictures, etc. that drops right into the trouble ticket without needing anyone to man the phone; or depending on their ability to reliably interpret and record what the caller is reporting, write it up, and send it to the appropriate person.

      Given that the input is still coming from people, I suspect that y
    • by devvmh ( 2562771 )

      How is this any different than calling them up and telling them what is broken?

      If you've ever called your municipal government, you'll know exactly how it's different than calling them up. With an app, you'll take 45 seconds. With a phone call, you might be on there for 45 minutes...

    • How is this any different than calling them up and telling them what is broken?

      Voice: "Welcome to Detroit council, all our operators are busy at the moment, please hold the line."
      *smooth jazz*
      Voice: "You're call is impor"

      And the pothole remains.

    • An operator costs money and is easily occupied. A ticket system can take multiple requests simultaneously and saves money on a real person that can be spent on fixing the problems instead.

    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      I don't know how it is in the US but did you call you city hall?
      If you are lucky enough to call them during opening hours then you are put on hold for 10 minutes, then redirected through 3 different services to reach the right person, who, hopefully, isn't on vacation. Then they ask you for information that no mortal can possibly know and log the incident in what must be a write-only database because no one seems to know what happened to the report.
      Well, to be fair, sometimes they really are helpful. Howeve

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @08:38AM (#50698459) Homepage Journal

      How is this any different than calling them up and telling them what is broken?

      I can answer that. I've had a lot of experience fixing up information flows in public agencies. The difference is in what happens to the information in your call once it's in the hands of the agency. It often falls into an irrationally complex morass of criss-crossing processes. Watching a government or non-profit organization respond to a new piece of information can be like watching an individual pachinko ball drop through the machine's forest of pins, only you can be sure that it will eventually drop into the right slot, the question is will it make it there in time? The morass into which your request falls isn't designed; it has evolved, and chances are nobody has ever had the job of seeing whether what it has evolved into makes any sense -- until a new system is planned.

      One way to think about an organization is to compare it to the best organizations of that kind. And the best governmental organizations excel at performing routine tasks. None that I have ever seen excel at reinventing themselves; that takes the introduction of an outside force. It also takes the eyes of an an outsider with a knack for seeing which processes generate value and which processes simply support other processes. That's not always clear. I've had clients, with a simultaneously smug and hopeless air, hand me a fat ream of "critical reports" that a system absolutely had to generate. The first time this happened I was alarmed given my slim budget, but I quickly learned to ask this question: which of these "reports" do you actually use to make decisions with? Inevitably causes the ream of "reports" to slim down to a half dozen or so.

      But if the hundred or so other things in that stack aren't things the organization uses to make decisions with, then what are they and why are they produced? Inevitably the answer is that they're produced to carry data from one process to another -- something that a computer system can do without any marginal input of labor. That means that upwards of 90% of the office work can be eliminated.

      The result of eliminating that work isn't (as is often feared) that jobs disappear; it's that the organization becomes orders of magnitude more responsive. I've worked with mosquito control agencies that went from sending an inspector out days or weeks after the report of a problem (by which time it is certainly past) to sending out an inspector the same day and if necessary a spray truck that very night. I've worked with non-profits where donations took weeks or months to be deposited go to depositing the check and sending out the thank you letter the very same day. It's not hard to be responsive when you have a system that gets the right information to the right person immediately; it's impossible when your systems take weeks to get you information you need right away.

      How do things get that bad? Not because you have bad people. You start with inexperienced people who learn how to do their jobs from the people who came before them; and since nobody has a full view of the entire system they come to see their job as keeping the system running more or less as it has been. That's not because they're bad or stupid; it's the best anyone can do under the circumstances. When there's was a problem in their part of the system the do their best to patch that part so the problem goes away.

      Experienced programmers will recognize this anti-pattern; it's called "lava flow". Eventually the system becomes more patch than productive process and the effort to keep it running approaches or exceeds the effort spent on doing things that are intrinsically valuable.

      So yes, I absolutely believe installing a system, particular a system with mobile data input, can have a massive impact on a public agency's responsiveness. I've seen it happen repeatedly. Imagine you're in charge of dispatching workers to deal with problems, but all you hav

      • by v1 ( 525388 )

        well-said. wish i had some mod pts to give you. looks like you're in the ideal position to comment on this issue.

        One thing I haven't seen addressed here is the possibility of combining tickets. I've worked help desks in several places before and used different ticket tracking systems. Most of them had the ability to take automated entries, either generated via a service desk web page or just from sending an email to the service@ address. Obviously the heuristics of filing/assigning the ticket were poor

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I've had a lot of experience fixing up information flows in public agencies.

        Which is why, for the most part, your post has been ignored. You've been here long enough. We don't seem to take kindly to informed opinions or even expert opinions. Knowing what you're talking about is probably worse than reading the article.

        Anyhow, it was a nice read. It's always interesting to hear from people who have worked within the system. I've dealt with many different municipalities over the years and dealt with them exclusively until we moved into pedestrian traffic modeling. People complain abou

    • No one likes calling councils. Phone menus, long waits, many transfers to get the right dept, or just to be told "that road is maintained by the national government as it is an A road, that's a different number..."

      In the UK, we have a website/app called FixMyStreet. Councils can pay to use the service to manage reports, but if they don't the app simply emails to their general email so it does have national coverage.

      It does seem to work and the app makes it easy to take a photo, geotag, check the geotag is r

    • How is this any different than calling them up and telling them what is broken?

      We could say the same about people using for shopping instead of calling a telemarketer or, snail-mailing a purchase form tore up from one of those Sears shopping magazines of old.

      Voice calls are not parseable or amenable for categorization. They are certainly not traceable from root cause/complaint to action teams. You can't autonomously prioritize.

      Form data is. Welcome to the world of automation.

    • Problem ticket tracking, this should of course also happen with phone calls but often doesn't. When you note an issue in an app by necessity it creates a database entry, that database entry has to be checked "fixed" by someone and in most systems that persons ID is logged by the system, so it creates a "paper trail" and a query-able list of what has been fixed, by who, and what is yet to be fixed. Don't do your job, or worse say you did without doing it and there is a trail that leads right back to you wi

    • Hi, have you ever tried to call anyone in local gov't? 2 hour wait, they can't understand you, they transcribe incorrectly, nothing gets done. Email or app is far more time efficient, except emailing from a phone is a PITA.

    • Seriously? Call any government agency to report a problem and let me know how far you get and how long it took you.

      This is about CONVENIENCE. Also the report is automatically documented. ''
    • by mspohr ( 589790 )

      I bet you call Amazon and place your order over the phone rather than using that Internet thingy.
      Then you get to call them back when they couldn't quite understand exactly what it was that you wanted and they have to find the piece of paper they wrote the order on and correct it. Then they have get their calculator out and add up the numbers again so you can write a new check for the new amount. Then you call up UPS and ask them when the package will be delivered and they go through all of the pieces of pap

    • A phone call is not recorded, it can be ignored or forgotten. Logging the complaint means that it stays on a list and doesn't fall through the cracks. At least in theory. A fair question would have been how many water leaks and such were found before the app to see if the stats actually improved.
    • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

      You mean aside from the GPS coordinates and a picture of the issue? This day in simple answers for simple people...

    • Haven't RTFA yet, but if I do, will it indicate that unfixed problems remain on the list or on the map, and maybe indicate how many people have reported it?

      If so, that's an important feature that making a phone call that maybe gets ignored doesn't have.

      Also, if the app is not run by the city government, that might also provide a nudge that the city government might not have provided itself: looking bad when being unresponsive.

    • Many people would rather use an app than ring a cab company. And a cab company phone call is a lot quicker and more efficient than ringing the city/council about some arbitrary problem.

    • Because you're not pulsando dos si usted habla español and/or having to navigate a confusing auto-attendant, only to either get someone's voice mailbox that's full (because they retired 6 months ago), or if you do get someone, it's some bottom-feeder civil servant with a 10th grade education who speaks Ebonics and has a shitty attitude.

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @12:54AM (#50697551)

    Boston has had an app like this; it's called "Citizens Connect."

    Essentially, it's a very half-assed ticketing system. You open a ticket, and that's it - you can't provide any further information, or challenge a request, or re-open it. There is only one action city worker can do - "close" the ticket. About the only thing they got right was not forcing people to select a category; a team of staffers handle that.

    What people quickly discovered was that city workers would just close tickets, regardless of whether the work actually got done or not. So, what you saw increasingly were tickets that said "STOP CLOSING MY REQUESTS WITHOUT FIXING IT."

    That beats Cambridge, MA's system, which has horrendously poor geotagging and only accepts requests in a few limited, narrow issue categories.

    I have three or four of these apps for the various cities I spend time in now. It's stupid. There is a national service set up, but cities don't like it because it provides a lot of reporting to the public. City workers don't like Joe Q Public seeing how long requests take to clear and stuff like that. Makes 'em look bad....

    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @02:08AM (#50697719)

      An app for this sort of thing is a cool idea, but of course, only if the app doesn't suck and the city actually makes an attempt to fix the issues it receives. Call me crazy, but I suspect the app's effectiveness will have a strong correlation with the local government's effectiveness in dealing with it's other day to day issues. Competent local governments will probably make good use of this technology. Incompetent local governments will continue to run things (including new programs like this) in a bumbling, half-assed fashion.

      According to the article, in Detroit's system, the person who submitted the request can see the progress of the ticket item as it makes it's way through the system. That sort of feedback is important, as it lets people know they aren't being ignored. So, the city workers must have a way to update the status of individual requests as they process them. Seems like a reasonably good system.

      I'm not sure how Boston's compared to that. It sounds like their system needs a way to allow users to give some feedback per ticket, so they can let the city know who's not actually doing their jobs.

      • I suspect that it depends on the attitude as well. At least in IT, there seem to be two basic flavors(in varying levels of competence, there are some commendably diligent but not terribly sharp ones; and there are some total slackers with the annoying ability to pull off something brilliant just when it looks like their slacking might catch up with them; then go back to slacking): There are the people who say "The problem is that you are bothering me about some 'problem', so now I have to go look at it." an
      • Boston's system does not show a flow through the system, because there is no system. Every department in the city has its own computer system, and it appears they've refused to unify them or link them together.

        Essentially, your ticket with CC is closed when it gets entered into a department's worklog. Whether it actually gets done or not, you have no idea.

    • Boston has had an app like this; it's called "Citizens Connect."

      Oh, I thought that was a dating app. That explains why those guys from Streets and Sanitation showed up and found me dressed as Princess Leia when I was expecting a swarthy Luke Skywalker.

    • "city workers would just close tickets, regardless of whether the work actually got done"

      Sounds like a good basis for finding people who may not be doing their job, and disciplining/firing them. It should be noted though that a lot of people seem to fail to understand the limits/capabilities of government departments (I work in county government), for example in your situation people may be noting potholes in private roads, or trash in private property, things which are not the responsibility of the local

    • Seems to me here's an example where Free Software actually DOES make sense. Why have every city creating their own apps and issue tracking systems. Or having companies taking public money to provide them. Isn't this a perfect area for the public to create their own system that any public body in the word can just adopt free of charge.

      This would be actually serving the community. The REAL community, not just a small group of geeks with a particular interest.

  • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

    Is it possible for a city to have too much infrastructure? What would that look like, and is there an objective way to determine whether a city like Detroit has that problem?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, too much infrastructure looks like a thousand abandoned buildings to which water has been shut off, five hundred of which had broken pipes.

      Captcha: Handgun. Another way to determine if there is too much infrastructure: the prevalence of handguns in street muggings.

    • More likely, a city will have the wrong infrastructure rather than it being "too much." Infrastructure has to be built for peak actual or anticipated loads. When a neighborhood goes from a high population density to abandoned, you do end up with too much. Unfortunately, neighborhoods are rarely 100% abandonded, so you still need to serve the people that are left.

      Is it cheaper to convert a 4-lane road to a 2-lane road rather than fix the potholes? (It might be for bridge repairs, or water mains at end of

  • Informing the Detroit city government what the problems are has never been the problem. Getting them to do something about it is the problem. The telephone worked just fine, it's that the city government either just doesn't care or is blatantly incompetent. Detroit, ruled by Democrats since 1962. [] A city whose Golden Age included the Purple Gang. Yeah, I think an app wasn't why their streets were full of potholes and the sidewalks were full of litter. Giving it credit for cleaning things up is typical j
    • Informing the Detroit city government what the problems are has never been the problem. Getting them to do something about it is the problem.

      So TFA has it completely ass-backwards then?
    • So, you're saying that next time the democrats need to the remember to release the parking brake?

  • Raleigh, NC, uses SeeClickFix, supposedly.

    One road issue I entered (with a picture) was just ignored until it aged out of the system. They're doing a city wide resurfacing program to address multiple road issues, but it would have been nice to get that response instead of Jack Squat.

    I put another request in for tree servicing (as required by law) and nothing happened on it for three months. I finally called the city directly and the issue was taken care of within two days. Again, it would have been nice

  • And by that I mean "Bankrupted by corrupt one-party machine politics, deindustrialization, and overly generous union pensions [], and where the police can no longer afford to light up streetlights [] or to investigate any but the most serious crimes [].

    • and overly generous union pensions

      That's earned compensation agreed to in a contract, you worker-hating fascist, you.

      That's one of the "neat" tricks of neoliberalism: cut taxes on the rich, gut the standard of living for the working class, then blame the victims for the results.

  • So did they shut off the water to the buildings... because it was wasting water, or because there were squatters living in the buildings, and they wanted to render them uninhabitable, instead of providing city services in the area?

    • by TurboStar ( 712836 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @03:12AM (#50697837)
      Detroit gets real winters. Abandoned buildings aren't heated. Freezing water expands and breaks pipes. Now the building has structural damage in addition to wasting clean water. This is a win for everyone, including the squatters who won't be living with mold or falling through water-damaged floors. It's easy to bring in water in jugs and any drains will still work. You can even make the toilets work. Annoying, sure, but hardly uninhabitable.
      • I'd not thought about winder freezing pipes. I've actually had it happen when an upstairs tenant in an office building turned down the heat for the weekend, and pipes in the hot water heating system broke.

      • Then they are using the wrong technology.

        They should have cold temperature relief valves, and use PEX piping, so that it can freeze without damage. The building itself should be equipped with an excessive flow shut-off valve, such as the Dorot 100FE (which is an entirely mechanical design, mediated by water pressure differential over time).

        Then they could leave the water on, and not have a problem.

        BTW: if they had excessive flow shut-off valves throughout the system, the broken water lines would never have

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Your suggestion is that somebody should go retrofit extensive tracts of abandoned buildings, most of which were built many decades ago, instead of simply turning the water off?

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            They probably live in Detroit and aren't the person who is going to pay for it. Free costly infrastructure overhauls!!! WOOHOO!!! I bought four plots in Detroit a while ago. (Long but interesting story.) I had everything disconnected and razed the buildings. They're an investment. The buildings were beyond repair. Had the buildings been habitable, I'd have found someone to live there in exchange for keeping the property properly maintained.

          • Your suggestion is that somebody should go retrofit extensive tracts of abandoned buildings, most of which were built many decades ago, instead of simply turning the water off?

            Since the technologies have all been available since 1972, for the latest one (the mechanical excessive flow shutoff valve)... unless the thing was built more than 43 years ago, yeah, they should have had the damn things since day one.

            But if it was built more than 43 years ago... are you saying that things like plumbing and seismic retrofits of *in use at the time* buildings couldn't have been accomplished over a period of more than four decades?!?

        • Detroit has been deteriorating since the 50's. It's unreasonable to expect buildings and water infrastructure that old to be retrofitted with new technology when the city is broke.

          You're talking about a city that will let abandoned buildings burn because their fire service is broke.

  • Why so late? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by irp ( 260932 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @04:13AM (#50697945)

    We've had this in major cities in Denmark for years. Really nice: spots vandalism or a broken light. Fire up the app. Take a photo. The app logs GPS and gives option to move found position on map. Add optional comment and press send. Then the app keeps track of ticket status.

    Other stuff we've had for years includes sms/app based mobile payment between individuals and stores. Sms/app based purchase of stamps when sending letters. Tickets for train/bus. Etc. has really become a blast from the past :-)

    • by GNious ( 953874 )

      We've had this in major cities in Denmark for years.

      We have? Not aware of any ..

      • We've had this in major cities in Denmark for years.

        We have? Not aware of any ..

        There are *plenty* of major cities in Denmark...

        • by GNious ( 953874 )

          We've had this in major cities in Denmark for years.

          We have? Not aware of any ..

          There are *plenty* of major cities in Denmark...


    • Just a city? What about for a whole country! Buiten Beter [] (Dutch for "Improve Outside") is something similar here in the Netherlands and has been around since 2010. I've used it a few times to report issues. It's a simple 4-step process, and after you report an issue you get an email. The only minor fault is that I've had issues reported as "Closed" when it wasn't yet fixed, but a few days later someone always showed up to fix the problem. I guess "Closed" means in this case "The department has reviewed you

      • Even better: [] is an updated version for the Netherlands. I used it a couple of times in Enschede and if you report something that is fixable (not complaining about your neighbor) they normally fix it within 1 or 2 weeks.

        One time there seem to be a problem with the water (the pavement was wet on a dry day) which was fixed the next day.
  • by zypres ( 939921 ) on Saturday October 10, 2015 @05:14AM (#50698053)
    The open source alternative would be [] It got many forks on github for other countries, and it was first made by mysociety in the UK. Currently that version is used in 8 countries.
    • You are right, thanks for the mention (I work for mySociety)! Except that I believe that that number is now up to ten. Perhaps interestingly, the software is flexible enough that it can also be repurposed for any purpose that needs reports to be a) geolocated and b) sent to a specific location which is dependent on the location plus the chosen category - see, for example (for reporting cycle/traffic collisions and near misses), and it's also been used to report empty homes, to report medicin
  • That's great. Too bad Detroit has millions of other problems. I hope there is an app for that.
    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      Are you really an engineer? What *kind* of engineer are you?

      The majority of engineers that I've worked with are pretty logical. They'd likely opine that this is a good place to start and be happy that there's evidence suggesting that this is effective. They'd further opine that consideration should be given to seeing how this can solve other problems. They'd also be willing to discuss the other problems without a need for rhetoric and hyperbole.

      You're not really an engineer, are you?

      • Are you really an engineer? What *kind* of engineer are you?

        I'm an Irate Engineer, though I am feeling pretty relaxed right now. You must have stolen my irateness.

        You're not really an engineer, are you?

        As a matter of fact, I am a mechanical engineer.

        I'm really not sure why you're getting your panties in a bunch, and I don't think anyone else does either, seeing you're getting modded down to nothing. I was not slamming this particular app - I was just noting that it is a very serviceable and shiny teaspoon being used to empty the sea of problems that is Detroit. More spoons are needed, maybe even a few bu

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Umm... Okay then? I can only conclude you're delusional. I'm still moderated at 1. I post without a karma bonus even though I'm eligible for one, I consider it an unfair advantage. If you click the score, not the number, you'll see a popup that shows that my post hasn't been moderated at all. The post's moderation history is available for public viewing. (Of course, this is subject to change.)

          Anyone can verify this. Even you.

          Again, I don't post at +1 - that would be unfair. I'd post at -1 if I were able. So

    • That's great. Too bad Detroit has millions of other problems. I hope there is an app for that.

      There is. Ask Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

  • The most important part of this system is the issue tracking feedback, as it provides positive reinforcement to the reporting party, and it provides incentive to not just blow off the report to the city.

    Systems such as this, but without the feedback loop, exist in many cities; without the feedback loop, there's no way to detect the difference between an ignored report and one which is scheduled for a fix (including a "cable TV guy" style estimate as to when).

  • Chicago has an app too. [] Their 311 dial-a-problem service will also send you updates via SMS.
  • Many, if not all, dutch municipalities have had this for years. I still remember when slashdot was news for nerd but the memory is fading quickly:p

From Sharp minds come... pointed heads. -- Bryan Sparrowhawk