Apps for Hartford – haRtisan

Happy 2021. Volunteering is probably related to the meaning of life somehow, at least indirectly. Part of the reason I decided to stand up this site was to have a means of publishing tools that will be useful to the Hartford residents who spend countless hours volunteering for committees, city commissions, NRZs, showing up for public comment periods, or just picking up trash on their block. Ideas have been piling up, born from observations made during my own volunteer work as a member of my NRZ board of directors, and I wanted to start to move them from my head to the web.

There is a fair amount of open data available from the city and other sources which could be leveraged by residents to improve their neighborhoods, provide transparency and oversight of institutions both public and private, or just to have fun and inform themselves with. So toward at least one and hopefully more of these purposes, I write to announce an early (beta) release of haRtisan.

haRtisan is a web app which lets users access, query, and visualize data from and related to the city. As of this version, this includes just one city dataset providing building permit information. Users can filter by neighborhood, as well as by permit characteristics such as the date of application, class of work (e.g. residential, commerical), permit status (e.g. submitted, issued, approved), and others. Click on the permit marker and a popup shows important info about that permit.

Several data elements or filters have choices which are not easily interpreted – for example, Work Class can be “Residential” or “Commercial”, but it can also be “Alteration” (which one would think could itself be residential or commercial), “New”, “Tent,” and so on. These options simply reflect all the values that have been entered by the city in the past, and is not any design by myself. However, I will be working to get a “data dictionary” added which might clarify how these assignments are decided.

Permit data from the city is updated nightly on, and haRtisan automatically pulls it down nightly as well before processing, cleaning, and storing. Importantly, this includes a geo-tagging step – adding latitude and longitude information based on an address search using the OpenStreetMaps (OSM) service. Sometimes OSM cannot find an address provided and does not return a hit – in these cases, I instead use coordinates which are sometimes provided (though infrequently) in the original dataset by the city. When neither option is available, I do not include the records at all in the map nor in the table below. Testing over 5 years, I find this approach results in omission of less than 0.1% of permits. Nevertheless, in a future update I will add a way to see the records that could not be mapped in order that no permits will ever “slip through the cracks.”

Relying on the city’s data feed constitutes a dependency – if the city does not update their data for a week, then data within haRtisan is not updated either. If addresses or other elements are inaccurate as provided by the city, then they are inaccurate here.

Think of this version as the most minimal functionality possible while still being useful – the term often used is MVP (Minimum Viable Product). I wanted to put this out while I continue to work on adding functionality both to this Building Permits piece as well as by adding other datasets. If you have thoughts on what data you would like to see included or feedback on what you see so far, please leave a comment here.

The app can be accessed from the navigation bar at the top of my site (click on “haRtisan”) or by clicking on the image at the top of this post.

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