Hello, Shareabouts

At OpenPlans, we have big ideas about community engagement. We know that cities have few tools to run small-scale public processes or use local input in decision making, and we’re working to fix this problem. Enter Shareabouts, a simple mapping tool for gathering input online.

Starting with local streets and transportation as energizing gateway topics, we’re hopeful that web tools can allow local democracy to flourish in a completely unprecedented way. These tools can engage through existing online and offline social networks, gather input and data from participants, and empower citizens to create and advocate for local plans. An important starting point is a method to gather locations and comments on a local map. What’s the issue right here on this block? Where do you need traffic calming? How would you locate a new play park in the neighborhood?

Screenshot from the Shareabouts demo

Shareabouts is a mapping app for crowd sourcing, taking our recent work on the NYCDOT bike share map in a new direction. Shareabouts will have a simple, fun interface that makes it easy to add your voice to the map: suggest a location, add a comment, support other suggestions and share locations with your friends and neighbors. Shareabouts gets out of the way, letting you focus on getting points on the map. Behind the scenes, it’s a Rails app running on PostGIS spatial database, with a nice mapping front end. And behind all that, the real powerhouse of Julia and Andy.

We have some core design concepts in mind for Shareabouts:

  • Mobile is important, especially in lower-income and under-represented communities. Shareabouts needs to have a terrific experience on a mobile device.
  • Your crowdsourced mapping website should look great, tweaked just how you like it. Skinnability matters.
  • Open311 standards will be in Shareabouts’ DNA, so you can use it as a front-end for all sorts of civic apps.
  • Translations should be easy. Shareabouts will be a good fit, whether you want to say “Suggest a bike rack location” or “共有自転車置場がどこにあったらいいかな” .

Like many projects in their early days, there’s not much to look at yet. But as you know if you’re a follower of the open source way, being completely open from day zero is the Right Approach. We’re just getting going on something that we hope will be a pretty exciting project, and we want you on board from the very start of the journey. Here’s a list of ways you can get involved.

Most importantly, what do you want Shareabouts to do? Tell us! Check out the pipeline of work we’ve got planned, and join our developer mailing list. Please kick the tires on our dev server, and dig into the project on Github. And stay tuned…