Civic News
Data / Hackathons

The Brooklynite who likes to get people talking about civic data

Ben Wellington is becoming a force in the city's open data movement.

Ben Wellington's map of New York's WiFi payphones. (Via

Ben Wellington likes to dig into New York’s data.

Upon hearing news about payphone sites turning into free WiFi hot spots, he decided to map how much of the city would be effectively covered.

The truth is, it’s not really that great. Don’t cancel your home internet. Especially in Brooklyn. Downtown Brooklyn will get the best coverage and that’s only at 16 percent (based on Wellington’s estimate).

A new profile of the civic hacker on OZY says he does most of this work from a Brooklyn apartment, and he’s working on a book:

His mission is simple: to change government policy by using open data. And he’s becoming a force to be reckoned with as he publicizes all of the things that the city’s agencies are doing wrong. “I’m trying to make stats accessible,” he says, “and even cool. Imagine that.”

Alas, a caped crusader he is not. The skinny data nerd, who holds a Ph.D. in empirical natural language processing (or, in English, the computer science behind programs like Apple’s Siri and Google Translate), prefers to call himself a ”mathematical DJ.”

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Series: Brooklyn

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