This site continues to grow and expand in ways I had never envisioned. Initially this site was nothing more than a place holder and a bookmarklet that I wrote largely as a hack. My initial motivation started out from boredom at work. I wanted to find a side project to work on, so I decided to pick a New York City public dataset and see what I might be able to do with it. A couple of months before this, the city had started a new system of restaurant health inspections where restaurants would be assigned a letter grade and forced to display it in their window. I thought it was a great move by Mayor Bloomberg. Personally I have had roaches and other insects inadvertently served to me along with my meal multiple times. I’ve witnessed mice running around and have even seen an employee smear cream cheese with his bare hands at one of the most esteemed bagel places in Manhattan. So this project satisfied two urges. One to work on something that was my own with whatever technology I wanted, and two to do something that was good for the city of New York, which I love dearly. I grew up here and the idea of doing something that was good for other New Yorkers was quite awesome.
After I wrote the Health Bookmarklet, I decided to continue on, adding feature after feature. Never satisfied I continued tweaking and people are beginning to take notice. I’ve got about a dozen more enhancements in mind. One principle I have in regards to the site is that everything should be shareable and linkable. You’ll see that Most everything can be shared on facebook twitter and google plus either by clicking a button to share or just copying and pasting a link. So on to the features.
The first of many features added was our google maps based search tool. The feed back was largely positive so I decided to build a mobile version for android. The idea is basically the same, location based restaurant violation searches with the ability to filter by grade and cuisine type. Next came the indexing of restaurants by borough and neighborhood. Such a simple idea but yet so powerful. Having every restaurant in your neighborhood to compare on a single page adds a lot of value to the site. All the while implicitly making all restaurants linkable and hence shareable. A logical extension of this was adding the ability to save your favorite restaurants, so you can easily keep track of your favorite restaurants on a single page. Next was the addition of stats at the city and borough level to compare how different neighborhoods and cuisine types are rated. Finally my latest feature was the creation of a twitter account that auto tweets the weeks latest inspection results daily. We tweet inspections from 9am to 9pm daily. Included in each tweet is the name of the restaurant, zipcode, grade, score and any critical violations like rodents. I tweet to hash tags #nycgrade_A #nycgrade_B #nycgrade_C #nycgrade_P and #nycgrade_closed (restaurants that were shut down by the health department. The hash tags combined with zipcode are actually quite powerful. You could create a saved search for #nycgrade_A combined with your zipcode to keep track of whats happening in your neighborhood through twitter.
With excellent SEO and hard work this site has gone from 500 visitors a month to over 11,000 unique visitors per month in just a few months with no outside help or funding. No startup support network, no mentoring, just nose to the grindstone coding for a good cause. I’ve got more coming and eventually this thing will get bigger and bigger, just my prediction. The data and value I provide are what people want and need. I’m going to get back to hacking on the next feature now …