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?


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 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 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.


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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