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Wired recently published an interesting article titled "What a Hundred Million Calls to 311 Reveal About New York [wired.com] digesting some of the insights that can be derived by analyzing more than 100 million 311 calls that have been placed in New York since its inception in March 2003. 311 is New York City's phone number for government information and non-emergency services. It has been launched to provide the public with quick, easy access to government services and information while maintaining a high level of customer service. 311 now receives on average more than 50,000 calls a day, offering information about more than 3,600 topics: school closings, recycling rules, homeless shelters, park events, pothole repairs, and so on.

The two accompanying data charts break the data into time and location. However, instead of solving the article's title and focusing on what those telephone calls reveal, the article describes the many possible opportunities when more urban data would be accessible and mashed up, partly following the lead of Open Data cities San Francisco, London and Toronto.

The article also points to the services SeeClickFix and UK's version FixMyStreet, which are online services that allow anyone to report and track non-emergency issues anywhere in the world via the internet. By making all such complaints and queries public, these services let ordinary people detect emergent patterns as readily as civil servants can. Civil servants, however, are expected to act upon this externally derived data in some timely fashion, forming an hybrid dependency that might not work.

The organization Open311, in turn, attempts to make the 311 data open to the public, but currently only has a database that is limited to San Francisco and Washington, DC. In fact, I am unsure on what data the graphs have been based, as the article states itself: "New York's 311 has been reluctant to share specific call records with the general public".

Via @blprnt.

UPDATE: For the 311 graphs, Wired was provided with a sample set of data to work with. This means the New York 311 data is indeed not public yet, but this initiative might hopefully push such a move in the future.