SeeClickFix Adds Facebook App - InformationWeek

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4/6/2011
04:34 PM
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SeeClickFix Adds Facebook App

Facebook offers different types of opportunities for civic engagement and lets SeeClickFix award Civic Points to users of the application.

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SeeClickFix, the application mobile phone users employ to report potholes and vandalism to city agencies, is coming to Facebook.

CEO and co-founder Ben Berkowitz said the Facebook integration announced Wednesday is a natural sequel to SeeClickFix partnerships with media organizations, such as the SFGate hyperlocal websites run by the San Francisco Chronicle. "We've benefited from providing this application on other people's platforms, so Facebook seemed to be the logical next step," he said in an interview.

Facebook also offers different types of opportunities for civic engagement, he said. For example, SeeClickFix wants to use "game mechanics" to incentivize participation, awarding Civic Points to Facebook users of the application. "If FarmVille can get people to plant virtual trees, what if we can get people to plant trees in real life?" Berkowitz said.

SeeClickFix already ranks cities based on how well they respond to alerts generated by the system. The city of Omaha, Neb., is the current champion. "Potholes are the number one thing we get through this," Heather Tippey Pierce, general services manager in the Omaha Department of Public Works, said in an interview. During the winter, her department also uses it to gather reports on driving conditions, she said, and other city departments are using it as well, via a button on the Mayor's home page.

The Facebook app is available here. A version that cities and media outlets and civic groups will be able to add as a tab on their own Facebook pages should be available next week (an Add to Page option appears on the menu, but it doesn't appear to be functional yet).

SeeClickFix has been cited by FastCompany as a prime example of a social application that can engage citizens in getting problems fixed, rather than just complaining about them. The basic application is available for free, but cities that use it actively often hire SeeClickFix to customize it or integrate it with city systems such as 311 call centers used to track reports of non-emergency citizen complaints.

SeeClickFix has also been embraced by many media websites as a way to drive up civic participation (and website hits). In Raleigh, N.C., it's offered as a partnership between the city and WRAL, the local television station.

Berkowitz said cities have been asking for a Facebook version of the application for some time, but the app SeeClickFix is delivering is mostly of the work of one developer, Daniel Stainback, who started tinkering with Facebook integration in his spare time about a month ago. Once the rest of the team got a look at what Stainback had accomplished, they realize the app was mostly done, he said.

New Haven-based SeeClickFix announced investments by O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and the Omidyar Network earlier this year. SeeClickFix didn't disclose the amount, but the Wall Street Journal reported it was $1.5 million.

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