The Quantified Community

Just as monitoring devices and software enable people to measure and improve their own health and behavior, communities can quantify their performance by collecting and analyzing untapped data. One institution capable of leading the way is local newspapers, many of which need a new business model and a new source of unique content.

NEW YORK – I have written previously about the Quantified Self movement – individuals equipped with the tools (monitoring devices and software) needed to measure their own health and behavior (and, by doing so, to improve them). This movement is not quite sweeping the world, but it is making a difference. So-called Quantified Selfers are monitoring their blood pressure, sleep cycles, and body mass. At least some of them are using that information to improve their health and live more productively.

In the same way, I predict (and am trying to foster) the emergence of a Quantified Community movement, with communities measuring the state, health, and activities of their people and institutions, thereby improving them. Just consider: each town has its own schools, library, police, roads and bridges, businesses, and, of course, people. All of them potentially generate a lot of data, most of it uncollected and unanalyzed. That is about to change.

As with the Quantified Self, the tools for collecting and analyzing data about everything from public health to potholes in roads, real-estate prices, school attendance, and more are beginning to emerge. Indeed, many independent data-analysis software tools and Web sites provide data that can be filtered for local information and presented with useful visualizations.

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