Thursday, July 30, 2015

Recycle App Ecosystem: Trash Queens & Kings!

So NE Wisconsin is in the early stages of building a civic hacking community. We had our first civic hackathon in June 2015. We had our first civic hack Android app put in the Google Play app store in July of this year. And next month, in August, we plan to continue building out the Recycle App ecosystem of NE Wisconsin.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts the importance of ‘seed projects’ or existing civic hacks that people can contribute to, fork into new projects, build related hacks which are complementary to the seed project. Mike Putnam’s “Is It Recycling Week?” Android app and his AppletonAPI are the current champions of seed projects in our region. The two projects from Mike prompted people to help him improve those civic hacks, spawned a Pebble smartwatch app, encouraged the creation of a web browser version of the Android app, persuaded the building of a civic hack API locator, convinced people to work on APIs for Greenville and Oshkosh, and just generally made it fun to see what would come next related to recycling and garbage. Recently in the NE Wisconsin Slack group, there was discussion about our region quickly developing into the Trash Queens & Kings!

To possibly inspire more coders and non-coding civic hackers to rally around Mike’s NE Wisconsin trash empire, I decided to write about a couple ideas people can consider working on before or at the next civic hacking event. (That next event will likely be in Appleton in the second half of August, so keep watch on this blog to find out when it will be. If you want to get an email from me when the date, time and location are set, let me know.) Anyway, here’s below are a few of my trashy ideas. None of the ideas have been patented yet, so feel free to claim any of these open source code ideas for your own and build a civic hack around them.

Recycle Apps & CityAPIs For 50 NE Wisconsin Cities

A campaign can be launched to develop “Is It Recycling Week?” apps and CityAPIs for at least 50 cities in NE Wisconsin. This will do several things. It will give our area bragging rights at any meetups of civic hackers. It will spread the word about civic hacking throughout our region like wildfire. Although a civic hack about wildfires might spread more quickly. At least it would in the tinder-dry counties of southern California. Creating 50 forks of Mike’s civic hacks might also highlight the value of standard formats for data used and made available by cities. If all cities provided recycling info in the same format

TrashTalk Casual Game in “Is It Recycling Week?”

We can integrate a simple trash video game or game mechanics into the recycling smartphone app. This can be something simple enough that it would only take them a couple hours to do the coding, maybe a library or module? This casual game would not be complex or have high value, but is just intended as something amusing. Sort of like Zany Golf (old Apple IIgs game).  <>   IIRW / TrashTalk goes on iPhone App Store and has 400,000 downloads in first month. Mike Putnam and the gamer coders make $10K in first two months. A regional challenge match with cash prizes is launched and gets global media coverage.

Recyclepedia / Recycle Info

A new recycle app (is that a contradiction?) can be built to answer all your recycle questions. If you want to know where to dispose of non-trash items, type in what type of item you have and it will tell you where to get rid of that. If you want to recycle your old personal computer, it will tell you to take it to Best Buy for no charge, and give you other options. If you type in “light bulbs,” it will ask you what kind of bulbs and then tell you the proper disposal method for the dead bulbs you have. Any questions it can answer, or can’t answer to your satisfaction, will be forwarded to a team of civic hackers who we create new answers to unsatisfied answers, and those new answers will be incorporated into the app database. The possibilities for this app are endless!

“Is It Recycling Week?” Extension / Fork Coder Competition
To encourage enhancements to the NE Wisconsin recycling civic hacks, we’ll recruit sponsors for a coder challenge for which they’ll write app extensions or fork civic hacks for new communities in our region. From the 200 to 300 entries which are submitted during the Trash Empire Challenge, we will no doubt end up with features we never would have imagined possible. In the same way that the Apple App Store created a new platform for thousands of developers and generated billions of dollars, so our coder competition will make wonderful things happen in our small corner of Wisconsin.

Front Cover Of Waste Advantage Magazine or The Mother Earth News

A campaign can be launched to get “Is It Recycling Week?” on the cover of Waste Advantage Magazine or The Mother Earth News. We may not get all that many additional city resident users of the app due to being on the cover of those magazines (I’m thinking not all that many people in NE Wisconsin read Waste Advantage Magazine), but it will give Mike P and his recycling rebel compadres more street cred, as well as another notch to file on their Developer Derringers. (Interesting [to me] history lesson I gained from writing this post is that derringer with two Rs is the genericized misspelling for the pocket pistols modeled after the original handgun designed and built by Henry Deringer [one R]. Now you know.)

List Of All US Trash Apps & Garbage / Recycle Civic Hacks
We can build a directory of all the US trash apps and civic hacks for recycling and garbage. What the heck, we can even have apps from outside the US, although nobody can generate garbage like Americans can. When you browse through this list of trash hacks, because you’re tired of posting stuff on your Facebook page at work, you might be inspired to start working on your very own recycle app, or a suggestion for improvements on one of the existing apps.

“Is It Recycling Week?” Endorsements

An enterprising and civic-minded person can get endorsement quotes from trash management engineers and executives, from ordinary residents and mayor, from the Wisconsin DNR and US EPA. They can even contact trade organizations from the recycling and waste management industry to get glowing endorsements for our awesome bevy of NE Wisconsin recycling civic hacks. I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if we get an invitation to the White House from President Obama so he can endorse these apps in person. Or at least a tweet from some random person in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“Is It Recycling Week?” Humor Video

A humorous video will be created to promote the NE Wisconsin recycle and trash empire apps. It will feature at-the-curbside, also known as on-the-street, interviews with trash taker-outers who don’t have the app but wish they did. The video will include deadpan explanations of silly reasons why they want app, how they are considering switching from iPhone to Android because there’s no iPhone app yet, people asking their neighbors 'hey, do you know if this is recycle week?,' stories about how “Is It Recycling Week?” saved their marriage, etc. When the app goes viral on the Internet, NE Wisconsin and the video production team will become globally famous!

Recycle App Sponsorship

To incentivize developers to write, maintain, and improve recycle apps, we’ll get organizations like Waste Management, Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, WI-DNR, US EPA, Kimberly-Clark, Schneider, Bellin Health, Associated Bank and everyone else we can think of to sponsor the NE Wisconsin recycling civic hack ecosystem. Part of that sponsorship will also be leveraged to make more people aware of the apps and get more people using them.

App User Engagement Challenge

This would be a challenge to get residents of the city to engage with the recycle apps, somewhat like the residents of Panama City did with the Pothole Tweeters. We will request user idea and picture submissions, like the alligator pothole picture, and allow them to submit their ideas or pictures via a submission link in the smartphone recycling app. The Tweeting Potholes project is just the starting point for user engagement. Lots of other sticky engagement tools will be added by the team developing and running this contest. In Panama City, a TV station and ad agency created the Twitter campaign. Maybe local civic hackers can team up with a NE Wisconsin TV station and advertising agency for this project.

Earth Day Trash Queen / King Contest

We can launch the world’s first Earth Day Trash Queen / King contest. No specific ideas popped into my head for this one, just the overall concept. It would likely involve incorporating some aspect of Earth Day into the recycling smartphone apps. I’ll let you use your imagination and emails to tell me what this contest might or should look like. One of the many prizes for this once per year winner

App User Feedback From Non-Taker-Outer Spouse

We can run a contest for the best feedback from an app user who is the spouse of the Trash-Taker-Outer. One woman I know was really excited to install the app on her Android smartphone. She doesn’t take the trash out to the curb, but when she tells her husband to take it out, he always asks her if it’s a recycle week. Now she knows. So if the app user isn’t the trash-taker-outer, we need feedback from their spouse or partner to find out how we can improve the app.

Recycle App On $10 Smart Display Screen For Refrigerator Or Trash Bin

Small LCD screens and microcontrollers are getting ridiculously inexpensive. A clever person can design and build Internet of Things (IoT) devices for less than $10 that could be stuck on recycle bins or your refrigerator to tell you if recycle week and when the trash should go out.

Pop-Up Humor On “Is It Recycling Week?” App

Each time you use the recycling app, it pops up something humorous for you to read. Just something to make it more fun to set the garbage out to be picked up the next morning. The app can have 500 trash jokes and 500 humorous but valuable recycling or garbage related tips and facts. The app will just randomly select which one pops up, alternating jokes with humorous facts or tips. The concept is to give the app user just one more reason to check it frequently. Users will start tweeting about the funny pop-up they read tonight on their recycle smartphone app. You might find this very difficult to believe, but I think people will actually start looking forward to trash night!

Recycle App Reward System

You could create a reward system for recycle app users, maybe something with digital badges. An app user can get credit for number of times they check the app, rewards for reminding their neighbor it’s recycling week (because the neighbor has an iPhone, and there’s only an Android app so far), reporting app operating problems or suggesting other changes to the app, etc. The top prize might be breakfast with the city mayor, the CEO of Waste Management, or some other recycling luminary.

Recycle Bin Art Contest

I’ve seen some pretty artistic and awesome recycle bin art in cities I’ve visited. The concept of this idea is that city residents with paint a mural or some type of artwork on their recycle bin to give it personality and to liven up their street. Instead of driving down your street on trash pickup day and seeing a monotonous lineup of trash bins, you’ll see interesting, strange, weird and amazing art. People could paint with removable watercolors if the trash company or city objects to permanently-beautiful garbage bins.

Free Recycle Stuff Nearby

This is a smartphone app with a social feature that mashes up craigslist free stuff with “Is It Recycling Week?” and maybe Pinterest. You can take a picture of anything you no longer want but others might find useful and load the picture to the app. It will also incorporate the free stuff from craigslist that people in your city are getting rid of. The app shows you pics of stuff others are giving away; if you see something you like, you can anonymously text them to let them know you’ll come over to look at it. You can restrict to your zip code if your city has more than one zip.

Those who read the above descriptions of recycle app ideas no doubt had more, and better, ideas for expanding Mike’s recycling civic hack empire. Please send those ideas to Bob Waldron, at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com, and I’ll update this list with your ideas. Let me know if you want those to be anonymous or attributed.

And please come join the trash talk at the next NE Wisconsin civic hacking event!

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