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Politics and Government

Using social media to combat potholes

Ellen Abbott

The city of Syracuse hopes to use innovative ideas from its Civic Data Hackathon to improve the strategies for fixing potholes. Winners of the Syracuse Roads Challenge focused on using data to create a more comprehensive picture of the pothole problem the city faces.

If the city follows through with Stephen Shaffer’s idea called Scout, you’ll be able to use the Facebook messenger app to take a picture of a pothole, and send it to the city. It will be centrally stored and used by DPW crews as they prioritize pothole repairs. Shaffer chose the Facebook chat platform, because it’s easier and cheaper than developing a standalone pothole app.

“Chat space is very good for short-lived experience. I’m going to talk to the bot for a second. It might be 15 seconds. If I had to download an app, I may have never participated. So that’s why the chat format works well, and messenger works well because it’s widely available,” said Shaffer.

It’s ideas like this that Mayor Stephanie Miner says pulls Syracuse out of a "there’s no new way to deal with problems like potholes” mentality.

"We do have new solutions to these challenges and problems. And that these solutions are based on brainpower and ideas and creativity, that’s incredibly exciting,” said Miner.

The hackathon was a partnership between the city, Syracuse University’s iSchool, and AT&T. Other winners created dashboards that focus on road and pothole data. Miner says the city will incorporate the winning proposals in the other strategies used to fix the streets of Syracuse.