A sneak peek at Stomping Ground, a more personal Shareabouts

We like tools that allow the public to put their ideas and opinions on the map. Our crowdsourcing tool Shareabouts gives the world a box of pushpins and allows them to (virtually) gather them in same place, in front of the same map, and asks them to plot their ideas and comments as they please, as a crowd.

Collaboration is a great thing, but some data collection efforts ask to be a more personal and less collaborative. In our conversations with community groups and planners, we heard a need for a mapping tool that can crowdsource information from each member of the crowd, one at a time. So we’re experimenting with a new way of using Shareabouts, which we’re calling Stomping Ground.

Stomping Ground poses a question to children, asking if they feel safe or unsafe walking around in their neighborhood, for example on their walk to school. Kids can mark  places that they feel are fun to walk along or play, and where they feel is dangerous or problematic.  The design uses a sticky dot metaphor, and it works beautifully on touch devices.

We had the work of Safe Route to Schools programs in mind, but this Stomping Ground interface can be useful for many other questions. Just about any topic that relates to a place can be asked: What’s your vision for the new park? Where do you want to put the five new trash compactors? Where are the six community public spaces that you like best?

We’re working on better exploration and commenting tools, so you can share your map and get other people to comment on it, or find maps that other people left. And we’re just starting to explore some analytical tools, so you can see the cumulative insight from lots of individual maps.

Down the road, this concept opens up ideas of being able to take someone’s design proposal (a.k.a. fork it) and submit an improvement (a.k.a. a patch). Over time, you can see how individual ideas shaped the whole (a.k.a. blame file).

Stomping Ground is an experiment in ways to gather rich, personal data from users in ways that are friendly, intuitive and fulfilling and provide rich data to planning organizations. We’re still tweaking the user interface to best fulfill that goal.  Help us get it there! What kind of individual maps would you like to use to gather citizen’s inputs with a Stomping Ground-like tool? Try out this beta, and send your feedback to hello@openplans.org or via twitter @openplans.