Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Appleton Civic Hack: "Is It Recycling Week?"

[Today's guest post is by Mike Putnam]

Hello again civic hackers!


Application programming interfaces - APIs are not immediately useful by themselves. Not until something *uses* the API do the benefits become apparent.

To that end, last week I open sourced "Is it recycling week?" - an Android app that allows you to enter an Appleton house number and street and from that point quickly see if it is recycling week or not. [Click here to get the Android app.]

Is it recycling week?

Purpose:

Every week I found myself wondering if I should put out the recycling bin with the garbage bin at the curb for pick up. I could have looked at the booklet the city provides, I could have visited my.appleton.org and looked up my property, but most often I would wait until evening and just walk outside and look up and down the street and based on my neighbor's presence or absence of recycle bins; just do what they did.

This process works fine and hasn't failed me yet. But I like computering. And I always have my phone at hand.

So I wrote an API + app.

I imagine I am not the only resident of Appleton that performs the above routine every week.

So I open sourced the API + app.

Certainly my.appleton.org contains much more information than just the next recycling date.

So I changed the API to return all of the data.

While I like computering, I am not strong in every area of it. Like anyone, I'm always learning. For example, graphics design is not my forte.

So I will participate in the June 6th hackathon and ask for help with the API + app.

I also get a kick out of contributing to open source projects and bringing communities together.
So to build community interest in civic hacking/hackathons/DHMN/Appleton Makerspace I will take any help I received during the hackathon, make the appropriate attributions within the app itself, and release the Android app on the Google Play store at the end of the hackathon.

Documentation:

The documentation currently exists in the README file on the Github repo.

Design goals/Reasoning:

  • Do one thing, do it well. Resist the temptation to grow the features/purpose of the app to include more than determining if it is recycling week. If some other municipal data app would be useful, create a separate app.
  • Be and stay open source. Contribute to and benefit from the local and global community of civic hackers.
  • No advertisements. As a community-built, donated-time application let's not sell any products, mkay?
  • Cost $0.00 and minimal time investment to maintain. Many Internet services/APIs provide a free tier of resources.
  • Do not become data stewards if we can help it. The city already provides the data.
  • Be usable by all citizens by being available in more than just the English language.
How to help:

Let's use the project's Github issue tracker for feature reqests, ideas, comments, etc. Any contributions in any area appreciated!

In closing, I hope you find the app useful and join me in improving it. Especially at the June 6th civic hackathon in Appleton WI!

Mike Putnam

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