The past few months have been feverishly busy. We’re close to launching SNAPMapper and I’m writing up a proposal for SHOPHere, “the Foursquare for local shoppers.” But the project that has been taking up most of my time since December is an app for disaster preparation and recovery. It started out as an idea from OpenBudgetOakland‘s Adam Stiles at the Open Code hackathon a few months ago. We called it Recover2Gether. The center point was allowing the community to help itself by providing a way for people to communicate with each other about their needs in a disaster.
What I learned in the meantime is that to create an app for disaster recovery and preparation that people will use, you have to design for everything else but the disaster mission. That is, you have to create an app that people will use daily and can repurpose in an emergency. CARD has plenty to say about that. Anyway, good design is a tall enough order. Real usability and centrality to everyday life is huge. I often imagine all the well-intentioned but abandoned apps floating through space like cyberjunk. So the Tribune is planning to set off in the new MoJo van for four community round-up sessions that will help me design the right app that people can use. I’m modeling the venture on what the Red Hook Initiative did and they are what I’d call a passive partner in this project. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to check out their work in person this summer.
In the meantime, I took some paper and crayons to the Alameda County hackathon last Saturday to launch the community design effort. I didn’t compete but did announce the idea and invited everyone to contribute their ideas. One hacker group ran with the idea and came up with an app that people would use to see what was trending on social media outlets.
I’m working to get Alameda County, the sheriff, local disaster response teams and others involved in the outreach effort. We’ll pull up in the van to a farmers market or flea market in Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties, set up shop and start talking to people about what need do they have that can be met by technology. Then we’ll iterate, iterate, iterate. (I also wanted to mention SF72, which we’ll definitely leverage…