… Open Data

September 27, 2010 at 5:13 pm Leave a comment

This summer I’ve learnt that there are 3 ways to find out where the UK’s public toilets are.

1- Trawl…
…The internet, the country, other websites… the oldest existing online toilet finders seem to be run by individuals who work very hard to add facilities town by town, with help from other volunteers. These are impressive but I can’t help feeling that they’re fighting a losing battle. If we just focus on local authority loos and guesstimate that if there are, say, 300 councils and each has 10 loos (yes I’m making this up) then you’ve got one person monitoring 3000 facilities through 300 providers spread across the country. It’s impossible. And that’s before you consider Community Toilet Schemes, where a county or borough might sign up another 100 loos, like in Richmond.

2 – Crowd Source
So a few volunteers is crazy, but what about a few thousand?  iphone and online apps like WaterAid’s Toiletfinder and SitorSquat ask the public to add toilets to their map as they find them. This works in theory, as it does with Wikipedia, particularly if one site becomes the front runner and everyone focuses on that. But the content is still very hit or miss and almost all are ‘semi-private’ facilities, like those in cafes, pubs and shops who may or may not mind you sneaking in to use the loo. For example where I live ‘Sit or Squat’ shows 6 toilets, only 2 of which are run by the local authority. Yet the local authority provides 56!

3 – Open Data
If the local authorities released data on where their public toilets are then they’d be responsible for keeping it up to date, the developers could add this data to their maps automatically, and I’d have 60 loos to choose from!  If If If…

My idea…
…is to create a website to encourage / support / report local authorities in releasing data on their toilets. Clearly it’s work in progress. I haven’t even got that sentence to work yet.

So before I do this I will need to:

ask local authorities if they’d be interested in it.
ask data experts if there’s any need for it.
ask developers if they’d want to use it.
design it.

so, you know, not much…


Entry filed under: Open Data. Tags: , , , .

Where are the toilets? … The London Design Festival

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