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drew blathers at final presentation

Pictured: final presentation at IIHS. Frank Romo and Malcolm MacLachlan are on the other side of the whiteboard.

We’re proud to say that we completed our project on schedule and with more functionalities than we originally planned! Reaching out to different organizations was the hardest but most productive part of our project. Our team contacted many organizations for their advice and, in particular, what they would like to see in a product like ours. We were inspired to make our project more than a simple visualization tool; our final product allows for visual analysis of pricing between apartments and their areas.

Broadening our scope increased our chances of success and served as a learning opportunity. In the future, I think that all of our team members will search for input from many different sources for their product… Especially if those sources challenge our preconceptions or make a lot of completed work irrelevant (this happened several times).

Personally, I learned just as much from the ways that our project could be improved. I read “Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology” by Kentaro Toyama after I returned from Bangalore. Dr. Toyama studies technological social interventions and why they fail. What allows a digital intervention to succeed, in his opinion, is:

  1. A relationship of the project to an established movement or social desire
  2. A team that continues to interface between the project and the people who use it

There is a desire to make property pricing more opaque in Bangalore, and I feel that our project is in good hands at the Indian Institute for Human Studies. What an experience!

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Our database is complete, and we are now fine-tuning our interface. This Thursday we will be having a final presentation at IIIT-B with all of our partners before the official GIEP presentation. Hopefully, there will only be minor changes over the weekend.

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Last week, we had all of our partners in the same room for the first time. It was good to get all on the same page, especially since there are only a few short weeks left in the project.

Some notes from the meeting:

– Amit would like a final report document – not just contained on the website
– Clarify data sources
– Why shift to PostGIS – recommendation from MapBox
– Clarify that localities are not polygons
– Described how IIM has assembled data
– Add “see list option” on search autocorrect
– 353 localities – not defined by boundaries, defined by centroid
– Guidance value modes – most frequently entered values likely guidance values
– Not doing the analysis for localities vs apartments – but researchers could use our system to do this
– Some discussion over highlighting the search by price tool
– User is not necessarily the same user who would go to Magicbricks – may not have a budget in mind, someone who has already searched Magicbricks and chosen a few locations and wants to see what all the different sources say about those areas
– Perhaps a more analytical website would be helpful, go one level deeper than magicbricks – trends, analytical output
– Gov’t predicted to be a big user, they will want to quickly see where there are disparities between values
– Possible tool that shows relation between gv and mv – queryable?
– Auto-updating of values by “web scraping” outsource scraping service
– How to update amenities – potentially crowdsourced, way to sustain map
– Population data from current census
– Amenities load within the map bounds – decrease loading time
– Ability to save, print, and archive the data collected
– From the govt side – gv, property taxes related
– Admittedly fitting taxes into our scope would be difficult
– All apartment data pop up boxes downloaded in one spreadsheet
– Go through fineprint of base maps to make sure there are no restrictions to their use
– Probably safer to source original OpenStreetMap (OSM) layer
– OSM might even load faster
– Next meeting to be held at IITB – invite industry experts, would like a diverse audience
– OSM cycle map may be of interest
– Create short description to distribute to people who will be invited to the next presentation

In the time left, we will be implementing the functionalities laid out in our mockups, and working towards some of the tools that lie outside of our initial scope.

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We’re excited to announce that our project is becoming a better resource than ever. Working with IIM, we’re displaying 4 sets of data that aren’t yet available in one place: listing, market, consideration/market, and guidance values.
  • Listing value is the advertised cost of the property. These values are open-source and were obtained directly from www.magicbricks.com. The average values are reported on the website rather than calculated by our team.


  • Market value is the appraised value of the property. We obtained this data from www.realtycompass.com, which is a private company that agreed to share its survey-derived data with IIT-B. Our team calculated the average market values.


  • Consideration or registration value is the reported price paid for a property. Our data is obtained from the Office of the Inspector General of Revenue and Collection of Stamps. It includes the number of registered apartments per locality. Our team used the 90th percentile of consideration values for analysis to limit outliers, so no median value is included in our analysis.


  • Guidance value is the minimum property value per area set by one of 41 sub-registrar offices (SRO) in Bangalore. Our data comes from the Office of the Inspector General. Our team assigned points to each of the 415 localities in Bangalore since accurate locality boundaries are not available. Each point contains guidance values for that locality based on the underlying SRO boundaries.
We hope to add clarity and transparency to the real estate market by making buyers more confident and allowing the government to better collect registration taxes (the collections are an estimated Rs. 7,000,000,000 (over US$100 million).
Using our site, a property buyer will be able to access listing, market, registration, and guidance values from one site, increasing her confidence in property investment. She will also be better able to register her property with the SRO office which increases government revenues. Accurate property registration is especially important as the city is short an estimated ₹700 crore due to registration value discrepancies.

Our team chose to use apartments as the units of analysis for several reasons. First, a prior pilot study performed by a real estate research team determined that apartments account for about 30 percent of all registrations in Bangalore. Second, apartments are the largest growth sector in property types (other sectors are land, village, and individual properties).

Additional desirables include charts that outline pricing trends by locality. We also plan to include data for building age, number of units, area growth trends, and the number of HBK for additional search options. We envision this project as a continuing open resource allowing for positive social change in the real estate market.

Malcolm and Anisha are finishing up the database, Frank is leading the GIS data efforts (we have lots of new data), and Betsy and I are working on documentation, design, and some GIS work. We have a progress report meeting on the 11th with all of our partners at IIHS, and a pre-presentation on the 17th, with still time to make changes before our final internal presentation on the 24th.
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On Wednesday, we visited Mapbox and Fields of View to show them our very basic prototype and visionary wireframes. Fields of View creates games and simulations to bring about social change. The gave us insights on how to position our web tool to improve the existing system, and ways in which we might effect change in the long term.

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Mapbox is a company that utilizes Openstreetmap data to empower organizations and individuals to create hyper customized maps. They helped us with our web interface, and directed the team towards some of the free, open source tools they use to create maps.

On Thursday the team met with Mandalasa from IIMB to catch her up on all of our developments. She  gave us advice as well as some hard deadlines moving forward.

The main goal of this week is to finish the basics of our prototype so that we can begin user testing first thing next week.

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After going through all of the new information our partners provided us with, Betsy created new wireframes.

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Yesterday we visited two of our partners that we had not met yet. We went to the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) to meet with Dr. Madalasa Venkataraman. The campus was a beautiful 100 acres of lush greenery and stone.

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Mandalasa works on policy issues and frequently visits Vidhana Soudha to deal with city officials. She challenged a lot of our assumptions, and wants us to make more conceptual recommendations based on our findings. She asked us to research more streamlined guidance value systems, like those in Delhi. IMG_6495

We also visited Professor S Rajagopalan and Professor Amit Prakash at IIITB for the first time. Amit gave us some additional actions he wants our system to accomplish, and asked us not to spend too much time worrying over incomplete data.

IMG_6511Anisha introduced us to some amazing foods in between meetings. All in all, it was an informative and satisfying day. Today we are working through all of the information we received to try and figure out what is possible for the remaining six weeks of the trip.

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We hit the ground running last week by creating a work flow chart of our entire summer.

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It is going to be a busy month! The four main trajectories are:

  1. Documentation – creating a blog to keep track of our decisions and processes
  2. Design – solidifying the look and feel of our product based on precedents, user interviews, and user testing
  3. Crack the Polygons – verifying our data with numerous official sources
  4. Database Architecture – creating and perfecting a working database that is accessible, scaleable, and sustainable

To complete these four work areas, we are creating a doc-a-day policy, to keep track of our notes and processes, and scheduling interviews with key partners and stakeholders this week.

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After missed flights, extended layovers, and lost baggage, we have finally arrived at iihs! It is a beautiful facility and we are incredibly excited to begin working here.

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