Go Code Colorado Open Data Effort is going into its final weeks

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States all-around have gotten into Open Data movements. Colorado has as well, and their recent Go Code Colorado effort is a very unique entry into this foray ( http://gocode.colorado.gov/)

Go Code Colorado was created to help Colorado companies grow, by giving them better and more usable access to public data. Teams will compete to build business apps, creating tools that Colorado businesses actually need, making our economy stronger.

 

The following is a great video that summarizes the event as produced by the State and one of Xentity’s colleagues, Engine7 Media.



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Xentity is very proud to be supporting this innovative Government Solution

Xentity was awarded IT consulting support for the the Business Intelligence Center platform and data catalog which supports the now branded Go Code Colorado initiative. Xentity’s consultants have provided the data and technology resources to manage and advise the publication of public sector data to the Colorado Information Marketplace and to provide technical support developers who participate in the Challenge. 

Xentity primarily has provided data platform support. We have provided data readiness analysis, data architecture guidance, project management, and the data analysts to “wrangle” the data (aka ETL) to get the datasets onto the platform. We also have provided the IT and data support on-site at the multiple locations and events to assure the challenge participants and finalists are getting the support they need to be successful in accessing and using the data and services. Finally, we are supporting the technical review of applications to assure these applications can have a life beyond the “hackathon” stage.

The final stages are coming the first 10 days of May. The 10 finalists have proven to demonstrate very viable solutions to achieve the goal of helping make our economy stronger. 

Some more background and detail on how we got here

(The following is from the State as guidance to this effort)

 

Colorado government agencies possess large volumes of public business and economic data. This data can help businesses with strategic planning, but it exists in so many different places and formats making it difficult for that most businesses to use it. The Secretary of State’s office will address this problem through the creation of the Business Intelligence Center (BIC). BIC seeks to aggregate and analyze data available to the business community.

This effort is led by the Colorado Secretary of State. The Secretary of State’s office interacts with hundreds of thousands of business entities, charities, and nonprofits in the state. The Secretary of State’s office collects, manages, and disseminates large amounts of basic data about those organizations and wanted to make the data useful to Colorado businesses. 

The Department sought to make this data more useful and collaborated with the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado to publish the Quarterly Business and Economic Indicator Report. This report combines Department data with other economic data collected by he Leeds School to provide meaningful economic information to the business community. For instance, new business filings are a leading indicator of job creation. With this and other information provided in the report, the business community can make smarter decisions that will grow the Colorado economy.

Since first publishing the report in 2012, the Secretary of State received comments from many members of the business community asking to see more detailed data regarding economic trends 
in order to better understand the distribution of commerce in Colorado. This includes access to the location, size, vibrancy, and concentration of key business nodes. While this level of detail would be tremendously helpful, the Department cannot provide the information because multiple state agencies collect the desired data and it is not readily available in a common place  or even a common format.

A central data collection point is needed. During meetings with other government agencies, Department staff concluded that these data requests could be met by aggregating all the information spread throughout various agencies and databases into a single tool by breaking down agency silos and better cataloging existing resources. Department staff also concluded that access and availability to the data is not enough. In order to make the raw data useful to the vast majority of business owners, data analysis and visualization tools are needed. These conclusions led to the Business Intelligence Center project.

The Business Intelligence Center consists of a centralized data catalog that combines public data into a meaningful tool for businesses. 

The vision for this project is two-fold. First, it consolidates public data relevant to businesses on a single platform. Second, it gives business the tools to make the data useful. The second goal is 
achieved through a civic apps challenge—the Colorado Business Innovation Challenge—that will give financial incentives to the technology community to build web and mobile applications that use state and other data to solve existing business challenges.

The data platform is akin to an information clearing house. It will make data sources currently dispersed over multiple government departments and agencies accessible in a common location. 
This platform will offer Colorado businesses unprecedented access to public data that is validated and relevant to short and long-term needs. Besides enhancing businesses’ access to state data, the BIC will also contribute to economic growth. The creation of the BIC will make data available to all Colorado businesses at no additional cost. Currently only large entities with the time, staff, and budget to engage in detailed statistical analysis can use these data sets. Providing this data to every type and size business in Colorado provides a unique opportunity to contribute to economic development. The BIC will nurture key industry networks and lay the foundation for a digital infrastructure that will continue to expand and improve over time.

The Colorado Business Innovation Challenge is an innovative way to create solutions and ensure the BIC is useful to Colorado businesses.

Simply making the data available is insufficient to most business owners. To truly help the vast majority of businesses—especially small businesses—tools must be developed to present the data in a useful and consumable form. Normally government agencies develop tools to fill this information vacuum, but historically the government has not been successful developing highly useful and effective tools. A new approach is needed—that approach is the Colorado Business Innovation Challenge.

Modeled after a “civ apps” challenge that has been run in multiple cities across the United States and internationally, the Challenge presents the software development community with problem 
questions and then asks that community to create possible solutions. At the end of the challenge, the Secretary of State will license the most innovative and implementable web or mobile application. The best design will receive a contract with the Secretary of State to make the application available to the public on the Business Intelligence Center platform. The Department will also pursue partnerships with the Colorado technology and startup industry to provide additional incentives, such as mentoring, hosting, and office space to the Challenge winners. The long-term intent of the program is to not only create an environment for fostering community involvement through the Challenge, but to develop sustainable tools that are  developed in the Challenge.

Apple Maps now has more share than Google Maps

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I have been tracking Apple for a long time (Check out 2011 article on Apple in the 80s and a local kid view on the Jobs-Sculley re-organization) and once again their approach to releasing a solution that works by default in their ecosystem triumphs over better engineering. VHS wins over beta, again. Lots of articles on this press release:

Apple maps: how Google lost when everyone thought it had won | Technology | theguardian.com

 

 

 

Apple in the 80s and a local kid view on the Jobs-Sculley re-organization

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In the wake of Jobs resigning (again – first in ’85), I decided to look back on Apples formative years to becoming a powerhouse.

So as I tweeted today: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?” http://bit.ly/r7dmMs #apple

I had a weird relationship with Apple in the 80s as somehow, a little podunk town in Maine was a bit involved in this Silicon Valley now behemoth.

Obviously, my Gen X was the target and I grew up on both DOS and Apple II (I know I will not win the IT nerd war with baby boomers on ENIACs and punch cards), but oddly enough, John Sculley summered in my tiny hometown in Maine which at the time was going through its empty factory phase. And when he became CEO at Apple, he became a legend of course.

I got into digital imagery in 1991 as he helped lure Kodak to build an imagery research center a stones throw from my high school. He, Kodak, and some of the Moms would hold school events near end of the year to promote or we got to visit and spend time with the researchers at this AMAZING facility. These plotters would be equivalent to what is still better in most offices or even Fedex today 20 years later. It was amazing, they had 500 MB on every computer and had HD monitors. And big designers would speak. I had not realized at the time, as I was an average unappreciative of opportunities teenager, but that is where I saw Edward Tufte first. I didn’t make the connection til recently that he was the same guy I went to see in Denver recently. I realized the root of why I hated hated powerpoint or slideware this long! At our school, of course we got Apple IIe’s upgraed to the black and white Macs very early, and I ate it all up. Flying Toasters were soon all the rage even before it went mainstream.

Sufficed to say, when you have local legends in a small town – which by the way, to re-engage the baby boomers, is where Peyton Place was based off, you know what I mean when we say we know the scuttlebutt about local celebrities. 

Heck, the town had always been that way. Watson, the founder of IBM, summered there ; Much later, Bob Metcalfe co-inventor of Ethernet, founder 3Com, Palm, etc. lived there for a long while. Artists, etc. Then there were us local folk who lived through the cold winters, in the double-wides, tromping through frigid cold and snow. So, it wasn’t uncommon for the Apple inner workings to be hallway fodder as some of the townfolk got summer winds of his inner battles (friends tended to his yachts or landscaped, that old chestnut). I had observed, as much as a distracted teenager could, his career, ergo, executive mgmt, off and on since a young buck and as well as later followed Gates similarly. Yeah, I had normal posters of Jordan, Magic, Spud Webb, Manute Bol, and the Sox on my wall too just like any other kid. Point being, it was neat to be over 200 miles from a large city, over 60 miles from a highway, and still feel connected to the bigthink.

 

There were some great things Sculley did when he took over Apple and some really dumb things as I recalled how I thought of it back then. A Decade later, I read “Insanely Great” myopy of Apple, and of course reading it was a mix of inside track connecting and realizing how much I missed between the lines. For instance, I recall certain undertones about Jobs, but I didn’t get them until I realized how he treated people. At the time, I knew more about the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates side of the Microsoft and Apple battles. I find for my work career now, I actually find the Sculley and Jobs (or now Cook and Jobs) difference more enlightening. And yes, as I connected the dots, I grew to dislike “Jobs character”, while admire his forward thinking. 

Anyhow – All that nostalgia aside – WHY IS THIS relevant, and why would Federal Government or any Management Executive care?

  1. You can read about how the lack of vision once Jobs left on this focus really killed Apple. Apple was NEVER about out-engineering Microsoft, or now Google, but instead of outpacing embedding their products with less features and fit into their ecosystem.
  2. It was obvious even then Apple followed aspects of the Gillette model for getting in the door with a slight twist. Instead of giving the handle away and selling razor blades, they gave major discounts or even free to schools, and later kids would buy their own for home. Brilliant. That has been their bread and butter ever since. Get them on their ecosystem and you won’t mind the extortionist level mark-up as you have been trained on their quality, hip, and other brand qualities. Just like any product allegiance concepts.
  3. It was clear if you stayed ahead on form factors to make ecosystem adoption easy, then people would forgive the higher price, and thus you could play with a much higher profit margin, which means you could get away with lack of discipline on product development
  4. But, the issue was, once Jobs was out of the picture, and someone else had to make up with that lack of discipline, margins crumble,s they had to reel internally on recouping on bad product management lifecycle, decisions, and especially coordinating with engineering struggled. 
  5. What you see is by the 90s, Sculley “ran the company into the ground” is how its written from an epic story of emerging business management greatness and some of the biggest flops. Mis-released of the Newton as they didnt understand timing of ecosystem adoption (way premature). 
  6. It was different than marketing a standing commodity like soda. That is where Jobs knew it. It was adapting to new forms and always designing to form over function. 

In all reality, maybe I am a sympathizer, I think he inherited a genius capitalist’s mess on the upswing, and as soon as marketshare dwindled, the emperor had no clothes, and Sculley was stuck dealing with the mess and was not setup with executive team to fight two situations – financials and innovation – at once. Cook began to hit that as well, but seems to have recovered (i.e. 12/2013 update: Apple maps: how Google lost when everyone thought it had won

So give the article a read, and consider how your organization tries to balance form over function and discipline design and management.

If you think worthy of fellow management executives, forward this on, and you can read about some of the management inner workings from Sculley’s angle (the side not being reported on, except that “he” fired Jobs). 

I read it again, and I was amazed at some of the parallels we’re going through right now in so many of our projects, perspective clients. It really is some fascinating soap opera lessons learned and insight for any executive.