As the seasons change and the leaves start to fall, grab your big scarf as we sum up what the climate team have been up to recently.
We’ve been talking about scorecards for much of the year, and this month the work has fallen into place and the Climate Action Scorecards have launched. There was a load of work done, not least by our designer Lucas and the team at CE UK in the lead up to this, to get the site polished and all the data finalised and published.
Since the launch we’ve been making tweaks and sanding off the odd rough edge. While we’ve been doing this, CE UK have been promoting all the hard work they and the volunteers have done with the result that there’s been a lot of press coverage. You may have seen some in your local paper.
If you want to see how your local council did then check out the site. If you’re an organisation or researcher interested in using the data underlying this then it’s available to buy from CE UK in a handy, easy to process format.
We, for Alex values of we, wrote a bit about some of the tech behind the Scorecards crowdsourcing effort.
On the Local Intelligence Hub front we’ve been making progress on supporting multiple versions of constituencies. For those of you who don’t breathlessly follow political boundary news there was a review of the size and shape of Westminster Parliamentary constituencies which has resulted in many of these changing.
The changes will take effect at the next general election, whenever that happens, so we need to support them, while also supporting the existing ones. Alexander has been working away on enabling the Local Intelligence Hub to display data for multiple versions of a constituency. This will also help if we want to add data for other types of area in the future. This is all working towards the new public launch date of January 2024 so you can make using local climate data part of your New Year’s resolutions.
Should you be in a position where you need to care about constituency changes, we have some potentially helpful data and code for making the transition from the old to new boundaries. If you don’t have to care but are interested there’s also some background on the hows and whys of the changes there too.
On the Neighbourhood Warmth front Siôn is continuing to talk to potential partners and funders, while sharpening up our plans for the next stage of development. As always more details on everything Neighbourhood Warmth can be found in its very own monthnotes.
On the policy side Julia has been lining things up for an event about Fragmented Data which is part of our work to explain how better data will help reach climate targets. Look out for more news on that in the coming weeks. Scraping in under the spooky decorations as I write this on All Hallow’s Eve, Zarino is at the Net Zero Festival where our CEO Louise will be, or indeed was, talking about the work we do to help involve people in matters climate related.
Image: Aaron Burden
Once again it’s time for our monthly roundup of what the Climate team has been doing in the last, er, two months. Plenty to write about at least.
First on the list is another milestone in the journey towards Climate Emergency UK’s Council Climate Action Scorecards – the start of the Right of Reply process. All the marking of councils’ climate actions has been completed by CEUK’s small army of volunteers, and now it’s over to councils to have a look at the results and provide any feedback. We’ve also pulled in the data from Freedom of Information requests which was gathered using our WhatDoTheyKnow Pro platform so they can check that over too.
A second launch is the Local Intelligence Hub project we’ve been working on with The Climate Coalition, to help climate campaigners across the UK wrangle climate related data. There was a bunch of work in the run up to this to improve how we were displaying information on the map to make it more accessible, plus adding yet more data. Now that TCC members have access to this we’ll be gathering feedback to decide on future work, as well as adding more data, before a full public launch.
Meanwhile, our Neighbourhood Warmth project with partners Dark Matter Labs has been moving gently but steadily forward. We’ve been meeting with organisations in our three chosen pilot areas, and fleshing out some basic content and design before we put together a very minimal working alpha, to test out with real neighbours on real streets. We’ve been thinking critically about some of our initial ideas on how to connect people interested in making energy saving improvements to their home, and have broadened out our definition of “neighbourhood” from people on the same street to people nearby – to capitalise on the connections people might have across a slightly wider local area. Alongside this we’ve been working out how we’re going to get this in front of users to gather feedback once we have something to show. You can read more about this in our first set of Neighbourhood Warmth monthnotes.
We’ve also had an update on what our second Innovations in Climate Tech grantee has been up to.
Finally, with the spring new councils have bloomed which means updating CAPE to include these new councils, and to guide people looking at the old councils to their replacements.
Image: Olli Kilpi
As we move into the season of the falling leaves, we look back on the activities that fell in September.
Most importantly we welcomed Alexander to the team, doubling both our developer count and the number of people on the team named Alex.
Events dear boy, events
We ran an event! About Climate Tech! It seemed to go quite well. There’s lots of detail in the blog post and links so you can rewatch people from Wiltshire to Copenhagen talking about how they used technology to help with everything from green roofs to community consultation.
The post also contains details of our follow up event about the small grants (£5,000) we have available for local councils and partners for trialling ideas for tackling climate change.
Internally we spent a bit of time thinking about how we might use some futures scenarios to test out our plans and explore any unspoken assumptions we might have about the way the world works. Failing that we could always use said scenarios to help run a creative writing workshop on dystopian fiction.
The work goes on
We have come to the end of our prototyping weeks and we’re now starting to look at exploring some of them in more detail. The focus at the moment is on home energy, procurement and our most recent prototyping work with The Climate Coalition.
On the home energy front, Siôn has been continuing to speak to potential partners in the area while we work out the best way to turn this work into something concrete. If encouraging local communities to come together and improve the energy efficiency of their homes sounds interesting to you then get in touch.
Wasting no time, Alexander has been unknotting procurement and contracts data in order to turn our Contract Countdown prototype into something a little more functional. We’re still at an early stage with this, trying to work out if it’s practical to keep the data current. We’ll also be looking to show the more useful version to some potential users to see if it’s a service that has value.
Finally, we started work with The Climate Coalition on a beta of a tool to help them corral a range of data to more effectively help climate groups with campaigning. So far we’ve largely been talking about what data is both useful and available, and how to link it all up.
In non-prototyping work we’ve continued to chat to Climate Emergency UK about next year’s follow up to the Council Climate Plan Scorecards. This is very much in the planning stage at the moment.
Previously in blog posts
One of the side effects of our work on Climate is we’ve gathered a lot of data which we’d like more people to use. Alex wrote both about the data we have and also the process we use to gather and publish it. The first of these is of interest to anyone who would like some nice data, while the second is considerably more technical.
Speaking of people using our data, Myf published the latest in our series of case studies on how people are doing just that. This month it’s the turn of the Brighton Peace and Environment centre who’ve been using CAPE and the Council Climate Plan Scorecards to help with visualising council’s progress towards their Net Zero targets.
As ever, if you’ve used any of our data we’d love to hear from you. It helps us with both prioritising future work as well as when talking to current and potential funders.
If you’d like this sort of thing in your inbox then you can sign up to our monthly climate newsletter by clicking the subscribe link at the top right of that page.
Image: Mott Rodeheaver
So we wanted to build an app for FixMyStreet. Easy: we just had to make a cut-down version of the website, right?
Hmm, not quite.
Now he explains a little more about what informed the decisions he made during the apps’ development.
Moving the map, not the pin
When you use the desktop version of FixMyStreet, the first thing it asks for is your location, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s such a good reason that it needed to apply to the app as well.
On the desktop site we ask you to input your postcode or street name. With a mobile app, it’s much more likely that you’ll be reporting a problem that’s right in front of you, so we can usually skip that step and show you a map of your current location.
However, while the accuracy of geolocation technology is pretty good, it’s not perfect, so we wanted to let users fine-tune the location.
On the website you click on the map to drop a pin where the problem is, but we’ve found this isn’t the best solution on a small screen. Fingers are big and the end of a pin is small so it can take several clicks to correctly position the pin.
We quickly realised that having a central static crosshair, and moving the map to the location was a much easier and more accurate way to set a location.
Sending reports made offline
As we explained in the previous post, one of the benefits of the apps over the mobile site is that you can make reports even if you have no phone coverage. The app stores all the details until you get back within range and you’re ready to send it off.
One decision we made, which might seem initially puzzling, is that these offline reports don’t automatically get sent off to the council once you’re back within range of a phone or wifi signal.
There are two linked reasons for this, and they’re both related to the fact that FixMyStreet lets you report a problem even if you don’t know who to send it to.
Simply, before we can work out who to send the report to, we need to know exactly where you are – and that you are within FixMyStreet’s area of coverage (ie, within the UK).
Your location also dictates the categories that we show you. Each council has its own categories, and in areas covered by two tiers of government, each council will deal with different types of report. So for example, your county council might deal with potholes, while your district council handles dog fouling.
Once you’re back online we can check that the location is one we can accept a report about, and then fetch the list of categories for you to pick from.
In effect, this delay is also a second chance for you to check your report before you send it off, although that was never the reason for the decision!
The constant map
We initially designed it with the map only appearing when you needed it, but having the map underlying the reporting process provides a nice bit of continuity with the website, and seemed to make the app cohere better too. So, while there’s no particular reason for it to be there, we made the decision to keep things uniform.
If anything else about the app has got you wondering, do feel free to leave a comment below!