Civics 101: How to Use a Facebook App to Get Your Street’s Pothole Fixed

Could fixing your neighborhood problems, from potholes to graffiti to parking violations, be addictive as playing Farmville on Facebook? A brand new Facebook application from SeeClickFix is out with a grand experiment to put that addiction to the test.

Could fixing your neighborhood problems, from potholes to graffiti to parking violations, be addictive as playing Farmville on Facebook?   A brand new Facebook application from SeeClickFix is out with a grand experiment to put that addiction to the test.

For the unfamiliar used to phoning in their complaints, SeeClickFix is a Web-based tool that lets citizens notify officials of non-emergency problems in their community.  As the name implies, SeeClickFix is a type of crowd-sourced, civic to-do list.

A SeeClickFix user reports an issue, a parking violation on their street, for example, and uploads the information to the site. SeeClickFix then sends the complaint to the appropriate government agency; the issue is fixed; and the result is reported back to the community.

Users can also create geographical “watch areas” of interest to receive alerts about their neighborhood.

“We provide the technology,” the site explains, “but engaged communities do the hard work.”

With the Facebook app you can view and vote on complaints, advocate for an issue to be fixed, report and assign issues, create watch areas and view the profiles of people who report issues nearby.

All of the above is done by location, which the app pulls from either your Facebook profile or what you choose to enter manually.

While this initial version of the app does not allow you to actually resolve issues, the company is working to build that into future upgrades.

Founded in 2009, SeeClickFix now has over 200,000 users in 14,000 municipalities.  It reports over 50% of its 95,000 user-reported civic issues have been resolved.

The New Haven, Conn.-based startup also just received $1.5 million in funding in January.

And it was, in fact, FarmVille, the addictive app that lets you buy pigs and plant virtual trees, that inspired SeeClickFix’s founders to make their own Facebook app.

“Facebook has proven to be a powerful platform for encouraging people to plant virtual trees and improve virtual neighborhoods,” co-founder Ben Berkowitz told TechCrunch. When considering recent events, like the revolutionary wave in the Middle East, it’s also proven to be a powerful tool for organizing around social and political issues.”

Another, perhaps addictive, feature of the app is a Foursquare-style incentive program to draw in do-gooders by offering “Civic Points” to users who report problems.  The app eventually uses those points to rank users against their neighbors.  You get 60 just for signing up but you don’t, in a sigh of relief for your City Hall, become ‘mayor.’