All of those thoughts about cities, mapping, parking, transit, future-casting and community are lovely and important things. But at a certain point along this path, I realized I was spending too much time at the conceptual end of the problem, whereas I needed to dive into proper ideation.

So, to rectify that, I took a moment in the fall to brainstorm some community-engagement ideas that would prioritize the human-centric design principles I’d been championing:

  1. When Marcelo and I worked on Thither, the most common suggestion we received was to add an element of practicality to the concept. Rather than route people to quirky waypoints en route to their final destinations, why couldn’t we simply help them remember to grab their dry cleaning on their way to picking up their children from school? On the one hand, I find so much value in the surprise-and-delight aspects of Thither that I’m reluctant to reframe the project around practicality, but the feedback was so uniform that I at least want to explore it. 
  2. I also want to try an approach that focuses on the hyperlocal. I’ve been thinking about how much liminal space exists between the subway and my front door. Or the subway and SVA. Or the subway and work. We spend tons of time and money on Amazon because we want immediate gratification, but we live in a gigantic city with almost everything available at our fingertips. Why not a service that would poke you when you walk past a bookstore that has in stock, say, a book that’s currently sitting on top of your Amazon wish list? 
  3. Pedestrian navigation that optimizes for “quality of life.” This is a subjective concept, sure, but a lot of this can be attacked through the city’s existing open data APIs. I can route you down the greenest street, the one with the fewest noise complaints, the one with the fewest construction sites, the one with the least scaffolding, the one with the fewest high-rises, the one with the fewest empty lots, the one with the greatest number of DOH A-rated restaurants, or, if it’s late at night and you’re nervous, maybe the street with the maximum number of currently open establishments. 

Looking back, these three ideas sound a lot like Nearbuy.

Needs | Steps