Monday, February 9, 2015

My Little Stasi

There's an app for that.

For years I have bitched and moaned about my prosperous but non-civic-minded neighbors who will have their driveways plowed and leave their sidewalks unshoveled, a direct and selfish affront to those increasingly few of us who actually walk to the bank, the post office, the library, the liquor store.

The public scold within was furious, but thwarted.  By the time I slip-slided my way to wherever I was going, the desire to rat them out had burnt itself out. Until the next time.

But the app-gods have listened and my town has introduced an app for snitching on the neighbors: B(for Brookline)ONLINE, available for both iOS and Android. The graphics look like they were designed by a second grader with a color crayon, but it functions like a proper little spy, um citizen reporting, device.

The scold in me is thrilled.  There's a handy-dandy checklist that includes unshoveled sidewalks, potholes,  and sidewalk obstructions.  The only thing that isn't on the list is rogue wild turkeys which we have aplenty, but which apparently aren't the responsibility of the Department of Public Works.  You can include a photo in your report, a report which can be anonymous.

The paranoid in me is less ecstatic.  There is something very unsettling about a cheerful, easy-to-use reporting system that allows anonymity.  What makes it more unsettling is that this is one of the most politically liberal towns in the United States.  I'll spare you the rant, but think what the Stasi could have done with an app like this one.

Become a Citizen Reporter! Be the eyes and ears of the town online or on your mobile phone. This feature allows citizens to submit requests, report issues (potholes, graffiti, broken street-lights, etc), check for other requests, and get a timely response from the town. Report online or download the smartphone app via the iTunes store or the Android Marketplace.

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