A little robot named @OttWatch

Toronto city-wonks recently got TABS on Toronto and I was a little jealous, so I created @OttWatch! Don't get too excited - it's not full featured like TABS, but it could get there, time willing, someday, maybe.

For now the robot monitors ottawa.ca and tweets when it detects changes to agendas, action summaries, or minutes of Council and committee meetings. It won't tweet very much since documents and meetings are only updated a few times a week. It runs every 30 minutes from 8am to 6pm.

Ottawa's new document system makes this all possible. For the tech curious, OttWatch is driven from an RSS feed that I found after a little probing. There is potential here for new features because each meeting, agenda item, and document has a unique number. It wouldn't be impossible to detect when new items appear, pull out some words, match them against "alert" criteria, and email people.

A really cool feature would be to leverage the roadway open data and let people get alerts for anything matching an address within 1km of their home. For example, I live on Westhaven and the roadway data would let OttWatch determine the set of roads that come within 1km of my house. Searching agendas and reports for those roadnames should be a fairly noise-free filter about re-zonings in my area. It wouldn't be perfect, but it could help cut through the democratic wall for a lot of people. Actually I'd just enjoy writing the code.

An easier next feature would be having OttWatch monitor the lobbist registry. I already tried awhile ago, but the thing is unweildy and impenetrable if you're trying to write a robot.

Happy #ottpoli wonking!