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EveryBlock tailors news for every block

Start-up is mining public data bases to provide users hyper-focused news, such street construction, liquor-licenses applications, and lost-and-found items on Craigslist.

EveryBlock is in the hyper-niche news business.

Don't be misled by the name. EveryBlock doesn't endeavor to tell users what's happening on every block--just their blocks. Users can key in their ZIP codes or street addresses and EveryBlock tells them what's happening in their immediate area. They can learn about local crimes, which businesses have filed for liquor licenses, or whether any nearby streets are closed for construction.

Someone pilfer your laptop? EveryBlock links to lost-and-found Craigslist postings in your area.

EveryBlock offers the kind of information that typically isn't covered in a metropolitan or even a local newspaper. "The kind of information we provide is only news if you live near it," said Adrian Holovaty, the site's founder.

Holovaty, 27, earned some notoriety in 2005 for creating, a mashup of Google maps and crime reports from the Chicago Police Department. For the past two years, Holovaty has worked for the digital unit of The Washington Post.

EveryBlock was born out of Holovaty's journalism background and his desire to improve upon, he said.

Holovaty funded the project with a $1.1 million grant from the Knight Foundation, which promotes innovation in journalism. The site is currently only available in Chicago, San Francisco and New York, but Holovaty said he intends to expand as he's fined-tuned the service some more.

The site focuses on hard-to-find info from public records or data that didn't exist on the Web until posted on EveryBlock, Holovaty said. For example, anytime someone applies for a permit to do construction work on a San Francisco street, or to shoot a movie studio on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, EveryBlock gives users in those areas a heads up.

Since nothing of interest ever occurs in my San Francisco neighborhood (Sunset District), I chose to test EveryBlock with a coworker's hipper ZIP code (Mission).

First, because EveryBlock links to Flickr photos that have been "geocoded" to a particular point, I was led to a series of photo galleries. One included an interesting series on witty messages San Franciscans have scrawled in wet cement.

This was followed by a listing of 46 crimes in and around the neighborhood. Then came a link to a news story about a police car that crashed into a local liquor store and blog post about a man who attempted to holdup an area bar but was thwacked by patrons wielding pool cues.

Who wouldn't want to know that their local bar was the scene of this kind of neighborhood unity?