How to make… a UK Public Toilet Map

October 31, 2011 at 5:48 pm Leave a comment

Our funding application to continue developing public toilet open data and The Great British Public Toilet Map was rejected by the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)

Our research into public toilets was funded by the ESRC. When a research project ends, there is sometimes ‘follow-on funding’ available, in order to develop anything unexpected that has come out of the work (rather than letting all that work go to waste!).

Our proposal for follow-on funding had 3 reviewers.

  • One reviewer LOVED it.
  • The second thought it ‘extremely worthy‘ , but had trouble understanding what we proposed to do, which is our fault.
  • The third thought it ‘extremely important‘, but that local government, or their national bodies like the Local Government Association, should be the ones undertaking this work (and not the ESRC) or at least providing the funding, since public toilets are in their remit.


So how do you make a toilet map?

The next email in my inbox was from a clinical practitioner who works on another ‘work package’ of the project.

She’d been on a trip to Australia and had interviewed the company responsible for the Australian Public Toilet Map on our behalf.

We will explore other funding, however if any national bodies in the UK, Government or otherwise, would like to pick up the illustrious toilet mapping mantle, here is Australia’s advice. It’s worth it’s weight in Australian Gold.

  • Takes a long time; they have been going for 10 years
  • Have a 3 year plan that you might achieve in 5 years
  • Need to be persistent and not give councils a choice – use other cooperation to lever
  • Use Olympics as an incentive – maybe link with some promoter?
  • Have avoided ‘crowd sourcing’ – may have negative effect; instead forwarded comments to providers and let contributer know that they have done so
  • Comments tend to come back to the website even if provide a telephone number
  • Need to get support from site from other bodies; they have support from CF of A; develop alliances
  • Map has route planner
  • Can be updated by users but process is moderated
  • Be careful of what other people say you can provide; gave example of a message being sent out that a map could be obtained and they were inundated with requests.
  • All public buildings have to have toilets
  • People are now asking if toilets are rt-handed or lt-handed
  • Measures of success:
    • No. of toilets on the map
    • No. of visitors to site
    • Bounce rate
    • Feedback from organisations
  • Promotion of map needs to be regular.  Methods include:
    • Book mark distributed in all public libraries with toilet map link on one side and CFof A on the other
    • Article in Woman’s Weekly magazine
    • Radio
    • Conference posters
  • They have had the tender for the map since 2004
  • Paid for by the Dept of Health and Aging (gov)
  • Wouldn’t reveal cost, but paid for equivalent of 2FTEs.
  • Need access to a team of people and skills; roughly 66% time on maintenance and 33% on development.
  • Have iphone app and other apps
  • Update data once a year with toilet providers; find this is essential; providers are 50% local (state) and rest federal (country) or private (e.g. national parks)
  • Do include some shopping malls but patchy
  • Suggest having a commercial champion e.g. McDonalds
  • Once map is more populated, only include selected toilets if several in close proximity.
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Entry filed under: About, Open Data. Tags: , , , .

… The Open Data Consultation … Nine Elms

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