March 2010


Home after an interesting rainy Saturday spent at the Medway Innovation centre, taking part in Transformed by You – an event run by Kent and Medway councils to “improve your local area using the web and other technologies”.

I went along as a local resident, and it was good to meet several people who I have only known as twitter IDs, and catch up with a couple of local webbys.

The day was run a bit like a barcamp, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, with a bit of advance planning where people were invited to post ideas, which the community could then vote on. The idea I think was that people at the event would look at the top 4 or 5 ideas, but in the end we actually chose 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th placed ideas. We broke into groups – I was in the one looking at finding out about local events.

Post-its

How all ideas start

Following lots of brainstorming about definitions – what sort of events, who might be the audience,  how far does ‘local’ reach, we had a lot of very interesting discussions about what sort of service might meet a whole host of needs, what could/should the council’s role in this be, – followed by a lot of comments like “oh but have you seen X, that sort of does that….’  Jack discovered Meetup – which has a really simple interface. Within 3 clicks he had found an interesting event and shared it with friends.

Main points in the presentation at the end were: that any solution must be simple (lots of those we looked at took ages to actually drill down to the events), must allow easy search, and the option to build community by allowing people to publicise their own events, and absolutely must not re-invent any wheels – far better to spend time and energy in investigating what is already there, working out why it doesn’t meet people’s needs, and perhaps working on some sort of simple interface or aggregator, that brought material from lots of sites together. Oh yes, and we also talked about easy ways to share the information – like widgets to enable other sites to take a feed, or simple ways of sharing an event with your friends via facebook.

During questions at the end of the presentation, Carl mentioned BeLocal – which looks very close to what we were all talking about – definitely something to follow up.

Other presentations were very lively (and all were recorded by David Willcox, to be published on the Transformed by You community site) – and included:

  • a learning bus – like poetry on the tube, but with a real live poet,
  • intriguing ideas about QR codes – using them for tours of historical sites or public notices – like planning applications,
  • fascinating idea for a game – sort of mobile version of Fix My Street, but with a real sense of community involvement – points for reporting things, but more points for fixing things. The group expanded this idea to things like enabling the community to vote on priorities, and then follow up when things were done – for example report fly tipping > get main stuff cleared away >  get together and tidy up waste space > photograph end results. Points could be redeemed for local ‘prizes’ – like reduced entry to events of leisure facilities, or could be swapped for cash for community projects. UPDATE – Catherine, one of the members of that team has blogged about the game in more detail

A busy day – which has scuppered my best intentions of catching the train to London to see what the Rewired State coders have been up to  – too tired, I’ll just have to catch up later. But, thanks to the organisers of Transformed By You – I look forward to more of this type of thing in the future.

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Its a busy time of year for people getting together to canvas ideas, work together, and at the end of it, come out with stuff that is both innovative, and really meets peoples needs.

Three events which are in my calendar at the moment:

  • For people doing stuff with government information, keep an eye on the Rewired state website – a whole series of events is planned
  • For people who want to explore what can be done with aid data – look at the Aid information challenge website
  • And finally, for the people who want to see ultra local solutions, have a look at something planned for Kent: Transformed By You. Simon Wakeman has blogged about the event, there is a main site for signing up, plus a uservoice forum where people can put forward ideas and vote on tose which will be developed on the day
  • PS:  in signing up for this, I have found out about a Kent CC initiative: Pic and mix A site I need to take a closer look at – it aims to open up Kent datasets and offers some intriguing ideas as to what might be done with them – anyone for a tour of the most haunted places in Kent?