When I asked Gray Brooks if he had any advice for me, he said, “Stick to what’s tangible and real. We all have big ideas and it’s easy to spend a lot of effort to push for something grand instead of shipping something real. Delivery is the strategy. That takes some right-sizing, but you can always iterate and expand.”

Gray is a program manager for the GSA’s Technology Transformation Service, and supports the team that runs the Digital Analytics Program (DAP), collating analytics data from about 4,500 U.S. federal government agencies. The program’s dashboard, found at analytics.usa.gov, is an open-source project with code and data available for free without restriction. In fact, there is a long list of  projects born from the DAP dashboard. The longer I talked with Gray Brooks, the more encouraged I was about creating something similar in Flint.

I said once that I want to build a dashboard, where nonprofits and service providers could contribute high-level analytics data to create a collective snapshot of how users are accessing resources and information in my community. I didn’t know that people like Gray Brooks are working together on solutions exactly like this. I didn’t know that there is an entire community of people willing and happy to help others get started.

So. A dashboard feels tangible. How do I deliver that? I don’t know how to build a dashboard, no matter how many open-source resources are available to me. What I do know is that any kind of dashboard has to be built on actual analytics data–and creating a collective model for data sharing is going to be a project in itself. What does that look like? Where do I start?

Before I can save the world (or, in this case, the web in Flint, Michigan), I need to cozy up with Google Analytics and determine the best way to deploy tracking across my community. More importantly, I’ve got to polish up my elevator speech about why and how and what this all means.

And in the meantime, I’ll try and focus on delivering something real.



Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash