Tuesday, January 20, 2009

DIYcity Cincinnati

I was really inspired by this DIYcity concept when I first heard about it.

Twitter bots, aggregators, social software, mobile apps - we use these things more and more in our daily routines to make our lives better. But can we also use them to remake our cities altogether? How can these technologies be applied to transform urban spaces, changing them from the centralized, hard-coded things they are today into finely-tuned, fluid, user-operated systems that are efficient, sustainable and fit for life in the 21st century?

DIYcity is a place where people figure these things out by actually building and launching applications that address the problems around them.

I joined the site right away and started a page for Cincinnati. Still looking for other Cincinnatians to join.

One of the ideas on DIYcity is periodic "challenges" that people all over try and meet to solve some problem or create some tool to help people in a given city. The first challenge was to "build a Twitter bot that helps users avoid traffic and get where they're going faster." The second was "Conceive of a grassroots ridesharing system that can overcome the problems inherent in ridesharing and achieve critical mass." Both of those were oriented around transit, but future challenges may be oriented around other ideas.

There was a meetup last week of the New York and San Francisco groups, and they brainstormed a lot of ideas about both their particular cities and DIYcity in general. Some notes from these meetings are on the DIYcity Wiki. There is also a Google Group.

Some of the ideas will apply here in Cincinnati and others won't. For example, we don't have a subway system. Some of the ideas I'm motivated to work on would include: bus tracking, bike-sharing, bike-route mapping, place-based tool-sharing libraries, block parties, building histories, "what's open around here?", providing API's to government data, "who are my representatives?", "what is city council doing right now?", web-based 311, Electronics recycling, After-hours energy use in offices, wifi coverage, parking availability....

That's a long list, and some of the ideas are easier to do than others. I have some ideas on how to accomplish some of them quickly and others are more complex. I know that there are some things out there that I can accomplish by myself, so I'm going to start formalizing some project ideas and giving myself deadlines. I'll keep you informed on any progress I make. I'd love to have some help. Even just having some conversations with other people on this topic would be really valuable.

If you're at all interested in any of this stuff please let me know. Comment here, hit me up on twitter, or go to the DIYcity site and join in.