Kara Swisher

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BoomTown as Judge Judy, Um, Judge BigApps

With All Things Digital Global HQ located in the heart of the Castro in San Francisco, BoomTown tries hard not to judge–even that dude who likes to come into the Starbucks (SBUX) naked.

But I made an exception to be a judge for an innovative civic geek contest that New York City is doing for the second year called BigApps 2.0.

Get it? Big Apple…BigApps!

In any case, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is opening up a whole mess of government information–350 data sets from more than 40 agencies–and letting software developers have at it.

According to NYC:

“The City continues to open more data on the www.NYC.gov Data Mine as part of transparency initiative. The Data Mine was established for last year’s competition and, as part of the City’s efforts to promote transparency across agencies, all data will remain available for public use after the conclusion of the competition. Additional datasets will be made available throughout the year.”

Some of the new juicy data includes: CompStat data, buildings complaints and real-time traffic numbers.

The winners for the best apps created to help New York City citizens will get cash prizes totaling $20,000.

Last year, there were 84 apps, including a winner from Big Apple Ed, a guide to schools there.

The new winners will be announced in March of 2011, after fellow judges of mine–including Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson, Hunch CEO Chris Dixon and Betaworks CEO John Borthwick–decide who is the best.

And how much do you want to bet there will be a bed-bug app submitted this year?

Here’s the official press release from NYC:


More than 350 Datasets Provided by More than 40 City Agencies and Commissions, Doubling Last Year’s Availability

Competition Builds on Citywide Efforts to Increase Government Transparency and Provide Greater Public Access to City Data

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel and Deputy Mayor for Operations Stephen Goldsmith today launched NYC BigApps 2.0, the second annual contest for software developers and members of the public to create web or mobile applications using City data. Building upon the success of the inaugural NYC BigApps Competition launched in October 2009, the City has roughly doubled the number of datasets available, bringing the total to more than 350. These datasets provide developers and programmers with additional material, including public safety data, buildings complaints, and real-time traffic numbers from which to create new digital applications. Last year’s winning applications are today helping New Yorkers find mass transit routes, review public school information and gather an array of information based on their current location. This year’s winning applications will receive cash prizes totaling $20,000. Deputy Mayor Steel will detail the program this evening at NY Tech Meetup, a monthly meeting of tech entrepreneurs where companies and developers demonstrate new technologies. Deputy Mayor Steel will be joined at the announcement by New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Carole Post and Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Katherine Oliver.

“NYC BigApps combines two of our Administration’s important priorities: making civic information more readily available to New Yorkers and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in New York City,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The inaugural NYC BigApps competition yielded an array of creative uses for City data, and–with nearly twice as much data formatted for application use this year–there are even more possibilities with version 2.0.”

“The most important thing that the public sector can do to help create jobs through technology innovation is to provide our talented entrepreneurs with the tools to create new products,” said Deputy Mayor Steel. “The BigApps competition does this by providing open access to City Data. Through the competition, we encourage the development of applications that can then be commercialized, spurring job growth and economic development in New York City.”

“NYC BigApps is redefining the relationship between City agencies and enterprising citizens, all while delivering value to the public,” said Deputy Mayor Goldsmith. “Last year, NYC BigApps contestants came up with innovative applications that would have never been created in the normal course of business. There is more data available for use in this year’s competition, so the potential for new and innovative tools that can benefit New Yorkers is even greater.”

“Last year’s Big Apps competition was an enormously successful way to achieve multiple goals: supporting the City’s important technology sector, giving entrepreneurs opportunities to create new products, and increasing the accessibility and transparency of City government,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Pinsky. “This year’s expanded contest promises to promote even more innovation and creative thinking among the vibrant and growing tech community in New York. We look forward to seeing the results of their efforts.”

“NYC BigApps, and the DataMine site that supports it, sits at the heart of the City’s open data efforts,” said Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Post. “This effort complements the many other ways we’ve worked to bring technology to life for New Yorkers, including 311 Online and the 311 iPhone app. Beyond today’s competition, we’ll continue enhancing the functionality of DataMine and expanding the amount of data available there for use across the City and around the globe.”

“At the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, we’re exploring new ways to share information about City resources and services across multiple platforms,” said Commissioner Oliver. “Already we’ve reached new audiences through QR codes on the Staten Island Ferry and on the sides of sanitation trucks, and we’re making the content of our online Video On Demand player available on various mobile devices. The NYC BigApps Competition is the perfect opportunity to further communication between the government and the public.”

The NYC BigApps Competition is open to individuals, and companies and non-profit organizations with fewer than 50 employees. More than 160 datasets have been added to the 190 compiled for the inaugural competition. New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications coordinated with over 40 City agencies and commissions to provide the datasets, with 15 new City agencies, including the Department of Environmental Protection, the School Construction Authority and the Campaign Finance Board, participating in Data Mine for the first time. New data on public safety, the City budget, complaints to the Department of Buildings, and real-time traffic information will all be available for download today at www.nyc.gov/data .

The Data Mine was established for last year’s competition and, as part of the City’s efforts to promote transparency across agencies, all data will remain available for public use after the conclusion of the competition. Additional datasets will be made available throughout the year. Information and updates on the NYC BigApps competition, as well as official rules, can be accessed at the competition website: www.NYCBigApps.com .

Fourteen winners will be chosen in total, including two new prizes–best application created by a high school, college or full-time graduate school student; and a Large Organization Recognition Award for organizations with 50 or more employees, which will not eligible for a cash prize. A panel of judges from the technology and venture capital community will select winners for Best Overall Application (Grand Prize, Second Prize, Third Prize and five honorable mentions), Investor’s Choice Application, City Talent Award, Student Award, and the Large Organization Recognition Award. Two Popular Choice Application awards will be determined by public voting. Judging criteria will include the benefit to residents, visitors and City government; the quality and implementation of the idea; and potential commercial value.

All submissions are due on January 12, 2011. The Popular Choice Application winners will be selected by public vote through www.NYCBigApps.com between January 26 and February 26. Winners will be selected and announced at an awards ceremony to be held in March.

Last year’s winners included: WayFinder NYC–an application that allows users to find the nearest and best directions to New York City subway and New Jersey PATH stations; Taxihack–an application that allows users to post live comments on New York City taxis and their drivers via email (alert@taxihack.com) or Twitter (@taxihack); Big Apple Ed–an education application that provide residents with an easy-to-use guide to schools in the City, including school searches, top ten lists , analyses , comparison charts , and detailed school profiles ; and NYC Way–an iPhone application that bundles more than 30 New York City resources and provides information sorted by the user’s current location. The developer of NYC Way, MyCityWay, received the first investment by the NYC Entrepreneurial Fund, a $22 million seed and early-stage investment fund established by the City and managed by FirstMark Capital.

The judging panel is comprised of: Dawn Barber, Founder, Tech Meetup; John Borthwick, CEO, Betaworks; Chris Dixon, CEO & Co-founder, Hunch; Esther Dyson, Chairman, Edventure; Stuart Ellman, Co-Founder & General Partner, RRE Ventures; Lawrence Lenihan, Founder, CEO and Managing Director, FirstMark Capital; Danny Schultz, Co-founder & Managing Director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson Gotham Ventures; Naveen Selvadurai, Co-founder, Foursquare; Kara Swisher, Co-Executive Editor, AllThingsD.com; and Union Square Ventures Partner Fred Wilson.

“We are thrilled to be powering the second NYC BigApps competition, with significantly more data made available for software developers and the general public,” said ChallengePost Founder and CEO Brandon Kessler. “We were wowed by the creativity of the apps in the first competition, and we look forward to giving new entrants the great exposure they deserve.”

“New York is home to some of the world’s best developers,” said Foursquare Co-founder Naveen Selvadurai. “It is great to see the City rewarding this talent and taking advantage of it to increase transparency and make the wealth of information on NYC.gov more easily accessible.”

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald