Day 157: Dundee City Cycling Gripes

Yesterday was a mixed bag for me. My laptop decided to self-destruct during an update which meant that I lost a lot of old university work. This meant that nothing was achieved yesterday and the day was dedicated to bringing my MacBook back from the dead. Hurrah.

PC explosion, computer screen exploding.  .jpg
This actually happened

On the plus side, there were two bits of good news. Firstly, after having completed my talk at Make/Share about my Honours Project at the Beer Kitchen last Wednesday, the folks from Creative Dundee have enquired about featuring my work on their website. This will be very helpful for me as I aim to find more people to discuss my project and in showing it via Creative Dundee’s website hopefully I will be able to find some more people who want to test my ideas with me! All in all is an honour that people want to show my work on their own site and I hope to use this as an opportunity to really boost the feedback I get on what I do.

Secondly, I received an email from John Berry, a cycling officer with Dundee City Council. John had caught word of my project via word of mouth in the Council’s office, and contacted me to discuss how to greater implement a proposition that he wanted to develop for the cyclists of Dundee.

Cyclists in Dundee meet at the Dalhousie Building and hold a forum to discuss cycling in the city, and John wanted to create a channel with which forum members (and cyclists who don’t necessarily engage with it) can send in their problems with the state of the roads. Maybe it’s reporting a pothole, or a narrow street that doesn’t really accommodate cyclists, who knows. This idea, which is currently named ‘Dundee City Cycling Gripes’ (bit of a mouthful), ties in very neatly with one of my main ideas, Bike AI, which uses technology to complete the same task as John wants.

This presents me with an opportunity to actually see one of my ideas come to fruition. It would be so exciting to work with people who want to develop and promote ‘Gripes’ and make it something that is actually valuable for the people of Dundee. I don’t really know what my role could be here, if any, but regardless of that it is a sign that the ideas and insights that I’m developing are being taken seriously by the people who can actually make them happen.

Obviously, if ‘Gripes’ was going to become a living, breathing thing, then it couldn’t be delivered in the way that I have envisioned. Due to the costs of the product that I have suggested, it would be too difficult to actually make it happen. However, this doesn’t mean the idea can’t work, or can’t be adjusted to suit different needs in terms of technology.

At the moment, John has suggested the results being collated through an email account. I’m curious to learn if there is an easier way for cyclists to send off a report via their phone. For instance, surely Twitter would be easier in terms of sending and receiving reports. I’d argue that it is a more accessible option than email (especially in regards to the behaviour of cyclists, where they wouldn’t stop for long to report such an incident) and I can imagine Twitter being a platform where cyclists can generate a conversation around a problem rather than a case study of one lone email. This would help the Council actually be able to engage with the complaints, rather than it feel like reports are entering a black box with no reply.

Another reason Twitter may work better is due to the marketing of it. It’s easy to retweet and share ideas over Twitter, and this would be beneficial in starting this conversation, but also publicising ‘Gripes’ and getting more people to contribute. After all, awareness of the possibilities of cycling is a major problem here in Dundee, and if people aren’t aware of a service like this, then it will ultimately fail. However, who is to say that potential users would have Twitter? Perhaps email would be more beneficial, nobody knows yet.

These are just assumptions, and something I’d look forward to learning more about in the near future. But this development also impacts what I’m doing, and leaves me with a decision to make. Having showed some of my users some sketches of my final four ideas today, it is clear that I have the option to either develop my Bike AI on the back of ‘Gripes’, perhaps developing it from the viewpoint that this is a real thing happening in Dundee, and conceptually, this is what it could look like in future.

Alternatively, I could choose to work on an amalgamation of the other 3 ideas, and make some incentivised, game type thing based in Dundee. This is the project that I want to work on – but is it the right one? Arguments could be made that I will help ‘Gripes’ develop anyway, excusing me to pursue my own separate concept, arguments could be made that with the development of ‘Gripes’ I will have a wealth of data and insights to tap into to fuel my product.

Tomorrow I meet up with Ryan to discuss where I’m at with my project and hopefully in that meeting I can get some guidance on what decision to make. Nevertheless, I will need to decide very quickly – my Mark 1 prototype presentation is on Monday, and I need to have something to show at it!

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