Crowdsourcing for better infrastructure
Traditionally, city infrastructure planning has been a top-down business. From general guidelines drawn on a high political level, increasingly detailed plans have been made with little regard to local environment. Obviously, some level of general control and supervision of infrastructure is necessary, but it must be balanced with data on the physical reality, such as information on how the infrastructure is actually used, how it works in practice and what effects it has on the environment.
The City of Helsinki is committed to opening as much data as possible related to the decision making inside the city. We're publishing information about the political decision makers, such as committees, the city board and the city council, and the non-political civil servant office holders. Currently we have decision data on about 300 office holders and about 50 political decision makers.
What about documentation?
As most of us know, coding is a busy business. New ideas, feature requests, crucial hotfixes, standard bugfixes and a number of other issues pile up in addition to planned projects and sprints. Therefore, when developing an API for your own use, you are usually satisfied once you get it to work the way you want, and move on to the next pressing thing to do. After all, we are using our own API, why should we bother with systematic specification and documentation of the features we know and are able to check from the source code whenever we want? This process often results in APIs that are open in theory, but not in practice, as they may be too obscure for the average developer to approach and start using by themselves.