[occupyaustin-it] Needs of the occupiers app

Nolan Darilek nolan at thewordnerd.info
Sun Jan 22 09:29:03 CST 2012

This is why IT needs to be occupying GAs.

Things got sort of contentious last night. I stepped aside to have a 
discussion with one of our heavy occupiers on the ground, and mentioned 
that we'd bandied around the idea of a system for letting people know 
what things were needed so someone wanting to contribute five minutes, a 
few dollars, etc. to the occupation could. It could include everything 
from "we need dish soap" to "We need a truck and two other volunteers to 
pick an agreed-upon time to get the Freedom Tower to city hall." She was 
instantly all over the idea and really seemed to think it'd be useful.

So I'm going to make this happen. If we ultimately have to build this 
ourselves, it isn't going to be all that damned complicated, but we need 
some widely publicized system so that just about every need we have can 
be entered by anyone from anywhere then blasted out to a bunch of channels.

First, does anyone know of something like this? Ticketing systems are 
the most obvious, but who wants to enter a ticket for dish soap? It 
needs to take five seconds to register a need for dish soap, no more. If 
people have to spend several minutes filing a ticket, negotiating a 
bunch of fields, setting priorities, etc. that's just not going to work. 
Ideally there should be a work flow that involves texting "dish soap" to 
a number and having that logged. We'll sort out abuse issues later, but 
I think right now it's important to have this need filled by more than 
just individuals tweeting. Also, ticketing systems are targeted at 
project-style workflows, and that just isn't what we have here. If it 
takes someone a few minutes to enter that they need hand sanitizer, they 
aren't as likely to do so.

Am I just being too hard on ticketing systems? Is there anything out 
there that accounts for needs both light, like shopping lists, or heavy, 
like events on specific dates?

I've also looked at CitizenLogic.com as suggested a couple months ago, 
but aside from not really getting the point, it doesn't really look like 
it has the consensus features I'd like to see (I.e. people agreeing on a 
time to get the Freedom Tower out.)

If no one can think of/refer something, I'm going to put together a 
functional spec and start building an app. An initial version that 
supports at least quick drafting/checking off of shopping list items can 
be put together fairly quickly. The multi-volunteer quest system might 
take a bit longer. Hey, maybe the items can be quests and people can 
rank on a leaderboard based on number/rate completed.

Anyhow, just wanted to put that out there. There are definitely real 
needs that we can be filling, needs that can improve people's 
livelihoods, but they're not necessarily easy to spot from up north. 
Glad we're talking about returning downtown.

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