In the past decade, there has been an explosion of online services offered by government. Because technologies are ever-developing and ever-changing, we should be asking: How meaningful are these services and resources?

And because for some politicians press releases are more important than sound policy, we have to ask: Are these new features beneficial or just buggy?

The Ultimate Test: Are these services actually easier than going to City Hall — getting in your car or hopping on the bus, showing up at a public office, standing in line, and speaking with a public employee?

In the era of Gov 2.0, a movement to improve processes for, participation in, and accessibility of government by utilizing advancements in technology, conversations like these are happening across the country. Politicians love to proclaim, “there’s an app for that.” But do these new applications, API’s and platforms actually work to make our governments better and our lives easier?

The Reset Ratings offer a readout on these new online resources. Right now, we are reviewing San Francisco City and County services, but we will expand to state and federal services in the months ahead.

Each service is evaluated using five categories:

  • Accessibility: Is this service: offered in languages other than English, intuitive, available on mobile devices, and available offline?
  • Ease of Use: Can I do this in my sleep? Really?
  • Design: Are the pages and forms visually consistent? Like Steve Krug says, “Don’t make me think!”
  • The Guide: If the process isn’t intuitive, does the service offer minimally confusing instructions to walk me through it?
  • Feedback: How do I let them know when something isn’t working? Or when I am really happy that something is working?

Each category is rated on a three-point scale, the points are cumulated, and a total grade is assessed out of 15 points: 15/15 = A+, 14/15 = A, 13/15 = A-, and so on.

We’ve given you our thoughts on these services guided by this rubric, but the conversation doesn’t stop here. Tell us what you think: are we right? Then: how can the government do this better?


Reset Rating: Park and City Tree Maintenance

You’re joining other San Franciscans and their dogs at Stern Grove one Sunday for some live jazz and wine. As you shuffle through the crowd you realize that a completely usable part of the Grove is consumed by a series of fallen Eucalyptus branches. What do you do? Reset Rating: A-

How do I reserve a room in a San Francisco Public Library?

The San Francisco Public Libraries have made it possible [to a certain degree] to reserve the public meeting rooms online [as long as you meet the list of stipulated requirements] so that [qualified] residents can more readily take advantage of these great [but guarded] communal spaces. Reset Rating: B-

How do I reserve a computer in the San Francisco Public Libraries?

The SF Public Library has many public use services one can reserve online. Each library-card-bearing resident is granted an hour of library computer use per day. Reset Rating: B+

How do I request a reservation for an indoor space in a San Francisco Park?

The San Francisco Recreations and Parks Department website offers an online process to reserve an indoor space, and it is actually shockingly Gov 2.0-friendly. Reset Rating: B

How do I report a pothole in San Francisco?

Biking through Golden Gate Park, you come upon a pothole that would have taken you out had you not seen it in time. San Francisco should fix this — and they say they will, if you report it. Reset Rating: A-

How do I plan a trip in San Francisco?

Trying to get across town? Or you want to know if a line is down, again? Use the online MUNI trip planner. Reset Rating: A-

How Do I Pay For a Traffic Citation Online?

San Francisco’s Traffic Division is trying to embrace Gov 2.0, and you can now pay for your traffic citation online at Reset Rating: B

How do I file a whistleblower complaint?

If you have any reason to suspect that is not the case, City and County of San Francisco has set up a whistleblower program so you can file complaints and concerns to a body devoted to investigating wrong-doings. Reset Rating: B-

How to Register Your Clipper Card

You’ve gotten a Clipper card, and the first thing you should do, before you take it for it’s first spin to the 16th Street Mission BART stop, is register it…online. Reset Rating: B+ 

How do I buy a Muni Fast Pass?

So to save money, you’ve decided to purchase a Muni Fast Pass good on BART for your daily commute from 24th Street/Mission to Embarcadero and your other trips around town. Reset Rating: C+

How do I file a complaint about MUNI online?

Muni has attempted to embrace Gov 2.0 and made it so you can avoid immediate, early-morning confrontation by, even anonymously, submitting such a complaint…online. Reset Rating: C+

How to purchase a SFMTA Parking Meter Card?

You can now purchase parking meter cards online through the SFMTA. These cards will work in 23,000 of the 25,000 metered spots. Look at San Francisco…making it easier to pay them not to tow or boot your car. Reset Rating: B+

Crime Maps – How safe is my neighborhood?

CrimeMAPs, generated in collaboration with SFPD, is based on official police reports and provides, mostly, current information on, some, crimes in localities. Reset Rating: B+

How do I pay for my San Francisco parking ticket online?

That parking ticket you received while popping into the post office for just a second can now be paid online in less time than it took you to go into that post office. Reset Rating: A-

How do I license my dog in San Francisco?

In San Francisco, it is illegal to own a dog without licensing your pet. To make it easier on the owner, has created an online process so you don’t have to traipse to a vet or a city office to take care of this. Reset Rating: B

How do I report a crime in San Francisco, online? 

The only thing worse than having your laptop stolen at a Peet’s is then having to go to the SFPD to file a report for that stolen laptop. SFPD now offers this service online…sort of… Reset Rating: D+