I spent Saturday in Kent at transformedbyyou: You can see a lot of the content from the day on the Ning site and I know more is being added. I went partly because a knew there would be a lot of interesting people there (there were) and partly because I was interested in the format/objective which was using an unconference type approach to try and instigate some thinking around social innovation. I think it worked well (much helped by some excellent facilitation / social reporting from Amy Sample Ward and David Wilcox ). I joined a group that was focusing on mobile as a channel and we had a good morning discussing what this means and where the potential is for local government. To summarise:
- We drew a distinction between making websites accessible on a mobile phone and the potential for apps
- We wanted to design for the near future and make full use of the possibilities for current technologies rather than be limited by ‘lowest common denominator’ thinking (after all it was a Saturday)
In conclusion we described mobile as a valuable additional channel that can help bridge the digital divide – but the you have to keep in mind that it does not solve it because you need to find services and interactions that are particularly suited to the channel and this doesn’t necessary match perfectly with the services and interactions that will work on a desktop device. We talked fairly wide rangingly about QR codes (which are basically like barcodes – but linked to web addresses – that can be read and interacted with by smart phones), location and time based alerts, street scene reporting and community funding ideas. In the afternoon we spilit into two and covered two ideas:
- Exploring the use of QR codes
- Looking at how you could use gaming to complement the street scene reporting idea
I worked on the latter – and got rather into it…..I think partly influenced both by Joanne Jacobs from her LikeMinds presentation and Carl haggerty’s recent post World of GovCraft (BTW – I have title envy). The team comprised @sidekickstudios (a software and games designer) , @alteredeye (an academic looking at Human Computer interaction) and Tracy (from the Kent CC web team) we were well resourced for the challenge.
The idea was simple: we want to develop a mobile app which combines reporting of issues your physical community (broken lights / potholes / unkempt land etc etc) with a gaming approach. We thought this had strong elements of co-production as well as being channel authentic – and so we created “CALL OF DUTY” – which will be flying of the shelves at Christmas…..
Why? We could have just designed a mobile app for street scene reporting – a kind of phone based ‘fixmystreet’ – and I know that other councils are thinking about just that (for example Lewisham iphone app ) and its a really good thing to do. But we thought that adding a gaming element added in two additional benefits:
- It would be more fun – when did the idea of doing something useful become unfun anyway?
- It could be used to link people in the area together – using the gaming community to build local community
The game itself should be fairly simple – you get points for:
- reporting an issue (5 points)
- rating an issue (1 point)
- doing something about an issue (10 points)
(points clearly indicative at this stage – currency to be established!)
We assumed that the app would know where/when you were reporting something (probably with a photo) and that you would just be asked to firstly suggest an outcome – do you want it fixed by the council or do you think the community should deal with it for example – and then prioritise the issue by being shown a list of current issues and being asked to place it in the right place in the queue. We felt that this moved the user passed just complaining and gave them some sense of the whole picture. Other users could then ‘rate’ that prioritisation. You would be able to track the status of your issues, as well as getting updates on things that have been dealt with in your area (you might see some before and after pictures for example)…..btw – there is clearly a whole back office integration piece to be done here but we decided not to worry about that…..again – it was a Saturday
The gaming element would contribute a leader board where you could see who else has been active and where you relate to them – you could also have viral options so that you could share issues with your community to get support for your prioritisation. At this point I started getting drawn into a whole top trumps thing where you got rated for the types of things you report, how you fix them etc etc….
The final element was some way of linking game currency – points – to some kind of real world rewards – for example cheap entrance to a swimming pool. We felt that this would provide additional motivation and acknowledge the fact that you are ‘working’ for your community. We also wanted to make it possible to donate your game currency to local charities etc so that they could benefit.
This is not an unachievable idea – as long as you can remain committed to the idea that it does actually have to be fun and to engage with some actual game designers rather than the poor folks who will have to make it work with the back office systems. Its strengths are, I believe, in the fact that it tries to use the channel in a ‘native’ way without actually compromising on the social goals of the project. The first step to doing this would be to do some focus group work around establishing motivations and looking at what the game currency would need to look like.
If nothing else it was great to spend some time with likeminded people and a blank sheet of paper. But I now would like to think about this more – what can be achieved when you actually think appropriately for a channel and when you don’t get constrained with what is currently possible? What happens when you accept the fact that you probably won’t get anything built for at least a year – so why not look that far ahead in terms of the technology? And what happens when you think that actually it should be fun to do stuff for and with your community – and look at building something to do that?
Gaming is a growth area for online – as is augmented reality – and both of these come together in this idea. So – are you intrigued or was this just a way to pass a rainy saturday?
You can hear Adil describe the idea here: