PlanPhilly homepage
January 25th, 2013

PlanPhilly: connecting the people with their city

Tom Boutell
Chief Software Architect

Engagement with Philadelphia is one of P'unk Avenue's core values. So when we got the nod to redesign and rebuild, we were excited.

PlanPhilly "engages and educates citizens on the value of a well-designed city and encourages active involvement in shaping it through news coverage and content sharing." More specifically, the PlanPhilly team has written close to 10,000 articles and event listings over the past few years.

All that knowledge and enthusiasm about the city and the changes wrought by new development, new zoning laws and civic involvement is intoxicating.

It was also getting to be pretty confusing!

Keeping up with the latest articles on PlanPhilly's news page or its excellent blog, Eyes on the Street, wasn't too difficult. But what if you want to go deeper, exploring the connections between:

The article you're reading...

The developer behind the project...

The community organization that challenged it...

The neighborhood where it's all going down...

And the issue at the heart of it all?

Deepening the connections between content so that users of the site can discover it all was a key goal of the project, and the place we concentrated our development efforts. And that's where Apostrophe's new entities plugin comes in.

The goal of the entities plugin is to tackle projects with many related "entities," like people, projects, organizations, neighborhoods and issues, and make it easy to connect them. You can think of entities as the next step beyond tagging, in which every entity has a lovely bio and profile picture as well as a set of relationships to its "friends."

Those "friendships" work pretty much like friendships on Facebook: they are bidirectional, and allow entities of any variety to be friends with each other. 

And that leads to rich opportunities for discovery.

featured project

PlanPhilly has been a great project for us and we've enjoyed the opportunity to work with Matt Golas, Ashley Hahn and the rest of the PlanPhilly team, including Brian James Kirk of Technically Media. And we're not done; there are more great features to come, relating to contributions from users (and that means you). Users can already contribute their own professional bio and add additional organizations to the site, and new opportuntities for engagement are on the way.

But most importantly, PlanPhilly is at the heart of the Philadelphia conversation. And facilitating that conversation is what P'unk Avenue loves doing most.

Tom Boutell
Chief Software Architect