311, the city's information phone service, has been around over seven years now and fielded 100 million calls. Each day the service handles 50,000 calls from New Yorkers looking to report broken streetlights, complain about mystery maple syrup smells, find out parking regulations and basically everything else you could think of.
Wired has a fascinating profile of 311, accompanied by a beautifully designed map of the most common complaints, and what they reveal about the city that phoned them in.
The beauty of the system, they write, is that while intended as an information and complaint hotline, the 311 system now also functions to provide the city with valuable data. Among their findings:
clusters of public-drinking complaints in certain neighborhoods have led to crackdowns on illegal social clubs.
After the first survey of 311 complaints ranked excessive noise as the number one source of irritation among residents, the Bloomberg administration instituted a series of noise-abatement programs, going after the offenders whom callers complained about most often
officials now know that the first warm day of spring will bring a surge in use of the city's chlorofluorocarbon recycling programs.
Read the article here.