One year later …
Throwing caution to the wind and building a dream.
Last year Brian Herbert, Brandon Rosage and I met up in California and on a whim asked ourselves: ignoring what we know Crowdmap to be today, what would our ideal crowdsourced mapping service look like? As it turns out, we’d all already been considering this question for a while in our own heads, and our conclusions were strikingly similar.
- It would put a strong emphasis on users and their content. That content would be presented in a big, beautiful fashion and delivered front and center to visitors — people want to know what’s going on as it happens.
- Users would be able to post about anything at anytime from anywhere. A map shouldn’t have to already exist, and users shouldn’t have to hunt one down, before sharing something they care about.
- It would make mapping of content simple and straightforward, and respect users’ ownership over the content. Content could be mapped in real time or at any point later.
- It would have a responsively designed frontend that would look and work just as great on your mobile phone as it does on your desktop.
- We wouldn’t be limited to one site or one use case; it would have a powerful and flexible API that developers could build from to create any geo-location aware app they could dream up — our homepage would be just the first of many.
- It wouldn’t just be about crisis mapping: it should be about sharing and mapping anything you want. We conceived an enormous array of use cases outside of crisis situations that we’d want to use this kind of platform for.
- At the same time it would make crisis mapping easier. By taking the reigns off of users and allowing them to post anytime, and making creating maps trivial, emergency situations could be addressed more easily and at a quicker pace than ever before.
As we excitedly scribbled these goals into our iPads, it amazed me how quickly this vision was solidifying. We could build this. We should build this. And so, we set out to do just that. After our few days in California, we returned to our respective locations across the globe and began our work.
Brian approached the Ushahidi leadership about the concept, who I can only assume initially thought us insane. After all, we were proposing replacing an existing, well established service that’s popular with the crisismapping community for something completely new and untested. It was no small ask, and I’d have called us nuts. But, after a bit of convincing, they told us to follow through with this and see where it led us. I cannot understate the amazing level of trust was awarded to us on this endeavor, and I can’t thank them enough for this.
The year of development flew by faster than any of us expected, and work proceeded at an incredible pace. We looked to our peers in the space as we designed our API — what we felt was being done right and what wasn’t — and learned a lot in the process. We went through several iterations of the frontend, each more refined and impressive than it’s predecessor. We faced a lot of challenges, but came out the other side as better developers and designers for it.
Here we are a year later, and opening up the beta publically for the first time today. It’s a pretty amazing feat, especially in light of our team’s size. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished, and satisfied with the fact that in the end, we stayed true to our original vision. We have delivered a product that met all of our hopes, and beta testers seem to be thrilled with it. You can’t ask for more than that.
We aren’t totally done yet. There’s still lots to fix, and features we want to add. But I hope you’ll join us in shaping Crowdmap’s future. The adventure is just beginning.
Thank you to everyone at Ushahidi for supporting this crazy vision, and giving us the freedom, resources and love to build it. There is no greater bunch of people out there I could hope to work with.