I must admit that I’m pretty happy to announce mySociety’s plans to build our first major new non-comercial website since WhatDoTheyKnow.com launched in 2008. Late in 2010 we plan to launch FixMyTransport , a site focussed on connecting and empowering people who share transport problems of different kinds. The fantabulous Louise Crow will be lead developer.
Crucially, we at mySociety are under no illusions that it is an order of magnitude more difficult to get a new ticket machine in your station than it is to get your local council to fill a pothole (FixMyStreet surveys report 2371 problems fixed in the last month alone). The difficulty of achieving even minor changes to transport services and infrastructure is why we are simultaneously announcing our plan to build FixMyTransport on top of a major new back end system called Project Fosbury.
Project Fosbury is about helping people get over difficult obstacles. It is a modular platform for breaking down a complicated civic task into pieces which can then be allocated to one or more people. So someone asking their council to change the timing on some traffic lights might be allocated the tasks of:
- Writing to their councillors
- Obtaining local policy on traffic light timings from the council
- Getting people to join a mini-campaign group
- Videoing the problem
- Sending a letter to a local newspaper
Each task will ultimately be carried out entirely within a joined up infrastructure, each module being built to mySociety’s habitually stringent rule that “it must be easy and satisfying to someone who’s never engaged politically before”. We will work to create incentive structures, peer pressure, and hopefully a sense of fun. There will be a single public home page for each mini campaign, showing recent activities on the site, as well as integrating with external social media. We hope to repeat the FixMyStreet phenomena where some ‘insoluble’ problems suddenly become soluble once they’re in the public domain.
Now for the credit where it is due. mySociety’s sysadmin Keith Garrett suggested FixMyTransport back in January 2008.
The actual mechanics of breaking the problem into pieces (the idea that became Project Fosbury) came from a wide discussion at our retreat, with excellent suggestions coming particularly from Richard Pope. But the more general idea that the Internet hasn’t yet produced a really good system for bringing people together to solve everyday problems (as opposed to chat, or win the US presidency) came from numerous Call for Proposals submissions, including ones from Mark W, Rob Shorrock, Peter Silverman, Mahmood Choudhury and more.
mySociety will be building this site using money donated by people like you, profits from commercial projects, and any specific funding we can raise around it. If you know of anyone or any organisation that you think might like to support FixMyTransport or Project Fosbury, please do get in touch.
This is very exciting, Tom. There have been some attempts at generic real-life microtask platforms over the past couple years, but I think a site with a tight focus like FixMyTransport will motivate people a lot more strongly. I’m always impressed at what people will do to improve their commute by even a small amount.
Best of luck – and if and when the code is open sourced, I’ll see if I can’t contribute.
The 2 Bob’s Worth Project that won 2nd prize at the recent inaugural Australian Social Innovation Camp has a focus on micro-volunteering/micro-tasks and definitely has an interest in Project Fosbury.
It is starting from the other end, by making it easy for people to deal with little tasks and plans to work up to what you have in mind with Project Fosbury.
The prototype site is live at http://www.2bobsworth.org.au and the code is on github (RoR).
Hopefully we can find some synergies!
Two Bob’s Worth Limited
(A non-profit social enterprise)
This looks really interesting. I work with a number of local campaign groups on transport issues, mostly to do with stopping road building, and would be very interested in seeing how you guys envisage this working.
Campaign for Better Transport
Related topic within the open data Manchester initiative spearheaded by Paul Robinson.
Hopefully MySociety can find ways to work with others in the same area 🙂 Have you managed to secure funding for the FixMyTransport solution, or is it a unpaid/voluntary development? Sure we can all do something together ?
Your site cannot be used for this as not taking the data . Yiu sent me the information . : There are many special disability issues which concern the discrimination shown by LA & GOL towards TAXICARD ,Capital Call & Blue Badges interrelating with parking where disabled are prevented moving around by the unreasonable criteria & procedures eg: only named bays rather than a mix and not enough outside hospitals . The taxicard call centre is in Glasgow staffed by those who cannot take messages correctly using & old system that doesn’t recognise present situation such as Eurostar Terminal.If you point this out they leave you stranded. Some Boroughs supplement difficulty in cabs turning up with Capital Call while others refuse to recognise the problem .