Saturday, January 3, 2009

Crowdsourcing at home

We`re living through a mighty big snowfall here on Bowen Island, the likes of which haven`t been seen for at least 40 years. As a result there is much handwringing about what other people should be doing about things like keeping the citizenry informed about the current road conditions and such. Most of our municipal government officials are on holiday and there have been no official releases of information since before the snow started falling on December 16.

As a fan of passion bounded by responsibility, I decided yesterday morning to set up a weblog which provides a space for the crowd to get to work. The idea is that people will visit to check on road conditions and while they are there, leave a comment about how things are in their neck of the woods. It’s a gift exchange and so far it’s working marvelously. Yesterday, up for half a day, the blog had posts from 7 people describing conditions on most of the major roads on our Island. Today with a massive snowfall (30cms) ongoing since early morning, we have had reports from 16 people covering all of the major routes on the Island. Even the bus company folks wrote to announce schedule cancellations.

A group of us were also up late last night tweaking the blog and working on a Google maps mashup creating a road status tool that users can colour when conditions deteriorate. Stu Cole is leading the charge on that one. Also, one islander, Boris Mann created a FreindFeed home for some of the Bowen Island eGovernment iniatiatives that John Dumbrille and Peter Rawsthorne have been musing about. Richard Smith, James Glave and Brad Ovenell-Carter are looking into a wifi mesh and a webcam network across the island. James Glave and the One Day Bowen crew are hosting the development pages for these projects at the Bowen 2020 wiki. Most of the development chatter has been happening over twitter.

Everything we are doing is gift based, and we are hoping that the municipality will steal it (or better yet , post links to all of this on their infrequently updated web page. What amazes me is what a small group of us can do, in responding to a need, in so short a time using freely available tools. We’re lucky that this has happened while we have had a little time, being snowbound and all over the holidays, but when there is a need, it’s amazing to see what can come of it.

If you have anything to add to our efforts or tools we should know about, post them in the comments or visit the Bowen2020 wiki and join the effort.

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