Troubled by a pothole on your street, or a tree branch that seems to be on the verge of falling down on your parked car? You can now notify the world — and Berkeleyside.

Yesterday’s New York Times reported on a start-up that lets local governments and local media encourage their community to report on problems. So today we’ve installed a SeeClickFix widget on Berkeleyside.  Have a look at the right-hand column on Berkeleyside and you’ll find a list of already reported problems in Berkeley. You can either add your voice to the existing reports, or log a new problem.

The next step for us is to find ways to get your problems to the relevant authorities in Berkeley. Let us know if you have any ideas. And starting now, send in the problems you see.

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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  1. Christine, you wrote: “It would have been nice to have a blog where people can ask and answer local questions like this.”
    Perhaps so but the widget in question does much more than that. It entails a third party. It discloses demographic information to advertisers in ways outside the control of Berkeleyside’s owners. It makes a “game” out of ranking issues of concern but the rules of that game are in the control of a remote, for-profit company with no particular stake in Berkeley quality of life.
    The self-same functionality would be better done as a software module installed directly on Berkeleyside’s own servers, with Berkeleyside empowered to modify that software as they see fit, and with others free to dissent from Berkeleyside’s management of the feature by taking a copy of the software and setting up an alternative service.

  2. No opinion on the particular widget, but the idea is a good one. Another I’d love to see on Berkeleyside: Some kind of place to trade information about local events as they happen.

    For instance, a few weeks ago, there was a helicopter hovering above my house for an hour. I looked for days at the local Google News, local news sites, etc., but couldn’t find anything about what had happened. Someone I talked to later mentioned they thought it had been a fire.

    It would have been nice to have a blog where people can ask and answer local questions like this.

  3. Lance:

    How does it differ from ChronWatch? Jeeze, where to start. First, the Chronicle appears to have given up on and all but shut down ChronicleWatch. Next, the content of ChronWatch was selected by an editorial process, not by Web 2.0 crowdourcing BS. Next, the people who worked on ChronicleWatch were part of a newsroom and between themselves and fellow reporters had connections / contacts throughout government bureaucracy so they could identify and (in a friendly way) engage the relevant officials.

    In short, ChronWatch is (was?) deeply integrated into the local social and political fabric. “Report a Program” is a cheap piece of software the formats web pages, counts votes, and lists comments.

    I’m not sure what you think the “Report a Problem” thing has in common with ChronWatch other than it is a mechanism that encourages people to kvetch at at with no particularly realistic expectation of anything coming of that. In some ways, Chronwatch was vastly better because it selected but a few problems to focus on at a time, and silently carried the implicit “stick” of an investigative reporting team ready to follow up on problems that never got fixed.

    Comparing ChronWatch and “Report a Problem” is a bit like comparing the theory and practice of double entry book-keeping to an overly expensive blank ledger book from an upstart bindary.

  4. We’ll see, Thomas. If it turns out to be a waste of time, or something that is clearly gamed, we’ll drop it. It has a Google ad — which I’m not thrilled about — which allows the SeeClickFix people to provide the service (however trivial) to us for free. I’m keeping an open mind.

    I’ve always liked the Chronicle’s ChronicleWatch. Why is this different?

  5. I hope that Berkeleyside soon thinks through how ridiculous that start-up is both because of how easily it is gamed, how obscene it is to make money that way on such trivial functionality, how dumb it is to privatize a government function that way, and how unlikely it is that any wise elected official or bureaucrat will take it particularly seriously. And having thought it through, I hope Berkeleyside removes that “feature”.