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By Greg Clapp
Portland television station KATU recently visited BTS to talk on camera about the new PDX Reporter web app and learn about the upcoming version 1.0 release. The segment was featured on KATU News at 6, on January 16, 2018.
During the interview, I chatted with KATU News reporter Stuart Tomlinson chatted about the history of the app, the upcoming release, and some of the more popular report types submitted by Portland residents. Tomlinson, a fan and frequent user of the app, commented off camera that he and his neighbors have had great success getting issues resolved through its use, and he wanted to bring more awareness of it to the public.
Originally launched in 2009 as a native iOS and Android app, the PDX Reporter web app beta version was publicly released in April, 2017. The web app was developed by myself and Brittany Smart, and we continue to support and extend it.
“It's a universal version that can basically be used on any device with a web browser phone, desktop, tablet,” [Clapp] said. “It gives us a lot more flexibility for creating, updating and doing bug fixes, adding new features."
“It's going to be dramatically improved over the beta -- we've learned a lot of lessons over the last eight months,” said Gregg [sic] Clapp of Portland’s Bureau of Technology Services.
The improved Version 1.0 is expected to hit in late February or early March, 2018. The initial beta was a hastily made prototype designed to mimic the functionality of the aging native phone apps and allow those apps to be retired. Completely rewritten as a true HTML5/AngularJS single page application, the new 1.0 version will boast new features, a more usable interface, and the ability to support customized reporting forms.
The BTS eGovernment team announces the launch of a new web-based version of the popular PDX Reporter mobile app. The new app (www.pdxreporter.org) was released on April 27, 2017, as a public beta and is currently available to all residents of Portland. It provides all the features of the native iOS and Android apps that it replaces, promises more streamlined maintenance, and sets the stage for the addition of new features and report types.
In 2010, the City released the first versions of the PDX Reporter mobile app for iOS and Android devices, originally named Citizen Reports. They provided residents a convenient way to report and request service calls to City assets and publicly maintained infrastructure, including parks, traffic signs, street lights, parking, potholes, plugged storm drains, and graffiti. The app was hailed by Mayor Sam Adams as a way to “increase communication between Portlanders and the City, ensuring greater transparency, efficiency and accountability in government.”
From a February 9, 2010, press release issued by the Office of Mayor Sam Adams:
“Using their iPhone, citizens can select the type of issue to report, take a photo, geo-locate the issue via GPS or map, add comments, and send their report directly to the appropriate bureau for resolution. Once submitted, citizens will receive updates directly to their iPhone regarding the status of their issue(s).”
The first version of PDX Reporter was downloaded by over 3,000 users in its first month and gained an avid following. It received favorable press and generated calls from government officials in other states hoping to follow Portland’s lead.
But native apps have higher development costs, typically requiring different programming languages and development tools for each operating system, and needing a wide array of emulators for testing. As a result, it became difficult for the City to maintain the native versions of PDX Reporter, respond to changes in the mobile platforms, and keep up with requests for new features by stakeholders and the general public.
Original PDX Reporter app New web-based PDX Reporter app
The release of HTML5 in 2014, and the adoption of those standards by the major web browsers, changed the mobile app development landscape. Now it was possible to create dynamic web pages that supported many of the features previously only available to native apps. Even better, since HTML5 support is standard across mobile device platforms (and ostensibly across browsers), developers can create one universal version that is instantly deployed to all users, without having to go through the the review and approval process of the app stores, and without users having to manually download updates. It was in this new world of HTML5 that the new PDX Reporter web app was born.
The beta version of the web app was soft launched to the general public on April 27, 2017, after just a few months of development and testing. It was created by Greg Clapp and Brittany Smart, members of the BTS eGov team, and can be found at: www.pdxreporter.org.
Now that the new web version is live, the iOS and Android apps will be removed from the app stores in the very near future and will be officially retired in October, 2017. However, they will continue to operate until the retirement date for users who still have them installed. Messaging in the native apps currently directs users to the URL of the new web app version.
Benefits of the new web app version:
One codebase and consistent user experience across all platforms and browsers
Responsive design scales to fit any screen size for use on any mobile or desktop screen
Lower development and support overhead
Updates can be deployed instantly, no need for app store review and approval
Updates are automatically delivered to users, no need to download new version from app store
HTML5 allows functionality to match native app features
How it works:
Users register on PortlandOregon.gov, then access the app using their POG account.
Users select a report type (Abandoned Auto, Campsite Reporting, Debris in Roadway, etc.), then provide a geographic location, photo, and descriptive text.
Reports are submitted to TrackIT for triage and handling by various City bureaus.
Users receive email confirmation of new reports, and may view the status of reports from within the app.
Leaflet.js for mapping functionality
Base maps from PortlandMaps.com
PHP scripts for interacting with the PortlandMaps.com APIs
The objective of the first phase of development was to migrate the existing PDX Reporter functionality to the new platform, with minor improvements in design and usability. It will remain a beta product until the next phase of development, when lessons learned and feedback from users will be incorporated and new features added. Lower development overhead and a universal platform opens many doors for future development of PDX Reporter. Future phases will include the addition of new features and more reporting categories based on City and end user priorities.
Announcing the technical support site for employees responsible for their bureau or office websites. This site is intended to convey best practices, how-to information, helpfiles, and the latest updates to the City's content management system (CMS). Please visit the site at: www.portlandoregon.gov/support if you are a content editor or content manager supporting your bureau or office website.
Please also familiarize yourself with the latest new features and changes to the CMS by visiting our support blog CMS Tool Updates.
The City of Portland has been a leader in eGovernment and open data. This post provides a brief look at past, present, and future efforts to show how the City's commitment to open data has evolved, from the original resolution passed by City Council in 2009 to today.
Leading by Example
By building applications and widgets for various bureaus using open data, we hope to show the possibilities, utility, and value of providing datasets for public use. Some examples include:
- Police / Fire Incident mapping
- PBOT street maintenance dashboard
- Water district lookup tool and drinking water advisory mapping
- 'Jobs in the City' found on the Mayor and BHR homepages
A refresh of the CivicApps platform is currently under development with the following objectives:
- Facilitate collaboration between developers and non-developers
- Increase participation through release of high-value or compelling datasets
- Provide developers with full-featured API access to a majority of data catalog