Dodgy Tummy Trend Spotter

FROM: Gordon

What NEED does this meet?
The number of notified cases of food poisoning in the UK in 2002 was 81,815. Everyone I have spoken to has had at least one dodgy tummy experience in the last year and these cases went unreported. This was because the sufferer didn't consider it serious enough to do anything about, and couldn't say for sure what really had caused it. However, if there was an easy way of entering an 'eating diary' of the day or so prior to being ill (and enough people used it) then it should be possible to correlate this data in such a way as to identify the likely source of the food poisoning. For example, a common denominator in several cases could be an egg sandwich from the same establishment, or common consumption of an in-flight meal. In these cases information can be passed onto the relevant authorities for further investigation. However, many cases will be caused by home preparation of food, and in these case advice can be given on storing, preparation and cooking.

What is the APPROACH?
The plan is to have a website that makes it easy to enter the relevant food and provenance data (what was eaten and where it was bought) and collate the data in such a way to allow a likely source of the food poisoning/illness to be identified. The important points in this process are:

1. Entry of data must be quick, friendly and easy in order to encourage re-use of the system (as good results rely on a large sample size).

2. Data must be stored in a way to make comparison and crosschecking between different users' information possible.

3. Where possible there should be some immediate feedback of the likely source to encourage usage of the site.

4. Contributors would be kept informed of developments of their incident by email.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
1. Individual contributors are told the most likely source of stomach upsets, along with practical advice on preventing it happening again wherever possible. 2. Promotes safer and more hygienic food preparation and cooking in the home. 3. Commercial sources of food poisoning will be identified faster, preventing further, and potentially more serious, cases from occurring.

What is the COMPETITION?
The Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) maintains a database of food-poisoning cases - but this only includes cases that were reported to GPs, and where the GP carried out further tests and submitted a report to the PHLS. Most cases are not reported. This proposed system will contain a much larger number of more minor stomach upsets, making trend spotting and data analysis possible.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The main expenses of the system will be: 1. Creating/hosting the website. 2. Specialist health knowledge will be needed to formulate rules and write advice. 3. Up-to-date database of UK businesses selling/serving food. e.g. live information from on-line yellow pages. This will be required to let contributors pick visited eating establishments from a list to ensure accuracy.

November 17, 2003 in Health, Increasing Awareness, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


FROM: neil yashinsky

What NEED does this meet?
The need am I serving is enabling every day home and community maintenance. It is always easier with the right tools, think of a community snow blower used by people in the neighborhood vs one person using his snow blower and all his neighbors using their shovels.

Sharing tool enables personal and community productivity and development. It is built off a common practice used by people everyday aronud the world. A recent example is I bought an expensive ergonomically designed shovel that moves snow well while not causing you to hurt your back. I lend it to my neighbors, because as long as they don't misuse it they cannot use it up.

Another example is sharing a broadcast spreader used to spread grass seeds or fertilizer. This can't be used up, and actually everyone's property values will grow up because all the lawns in the area are likely to improve if it becomes easier to maintain a nice lawn.

If my neighbor shared his paint sprayer back to me I could paint my house more easily and might not let the appearance get so run down before paying someone to paint it. The money I save from not needing a painter I might use to fix up my porch.

What is the APPROACH?
It lends itself from napster of course, which showed how sharing can become very popular with music, because it can not be used up. My approach extends that plan to tools that cannot be used up either.

They do wear down and need replacing eventually which is why I might suggest a very minimal usage fee to be collected for purchasing more collective tools to be shared. This might be optional because in most situations people won't mind sharing, in fact they probably would already be sharing if there was something to enable sharing.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
By sharing tools that will make work easier, everyone becomes more productive. That will naturally benefit everyone involved. Common interests and areas such as property values, side walksand interests are improved. It might be the opposite of the tragedy of the commons which said that it should be expected that an unregulated resource will be used in an unsustainable manner. Instead toolster works to share private resources in a more efficient and thus sustainable manner.

What is the COMPETITION?
None that I know of.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
You will need to develop some software, but the functionality is very basic. I would imagine this be either centrally hosted like a yahoo discussion group or run locally by each tool community or group of tool communities.

The hardware required to centrally host would not be too expensive and might even be considered a shared tool for which user pay a minimal fee to maintain or not. The processing power needed to run such a simple application could easily be handled by a pc ala napster

November 15, 2003 in Connecting People, Helping Your Community, Matching System, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Community Business Directory

FROM: Tony Keele

What NEED does this meet?
Our everyday lives are controlled less and less by accountable public bodies and more and more by private businesses both as providers of services and as employers. We need to have easily accessible information about the local businesses so that we can make informed decisions as consumers and employees and where necessary present the commuity feelings on local issues to those responsible.

What is the APPROACH?
There are many Business directories written by business for business. We need one for ordinary people.

Companies have to publish accounts and other management information. Most of them have their own web site these days and there are also articles in newspapers and journals and so on. But there is also knowledge in the community of the many people who have had dealings with firms active in the local area.

Using these sources it would be possible to give a more practical and realistic picture of local business activity than we are usually given.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
The Community Business Directory would bring benefits in many ways.

Jobseekers would be able to get a more accurate view of a prospective employer or find new companies to apply to.

Local knowledge about garages, estate agents and power suppliers etc etc would allow commonplace but important decisions to be made on a rational basis and would encourage a genuinely competitive marketplace.

In situations where companies have a virtual monopoly of an important resource, for instance rail travel, it would provide an avenue for a direct exchange of veiws between the company and the community it serves.

What is the COMPETITION?
Clearly there is an abundance of trade information in the public domain and many attempts to present the consumers point of view in magazines and newspapers but these sources are often controled by the industries themselves and their coverage is patchy and rarely deals with issues of community interest.

Local libraries often have good information about local businesses but it is unexitingly presented and only available only if you go there in person.

In general finding out about a company is hard work. I suspect some companies like it this way.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
From the software perspective sophisticated open source development tools like Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP and Java should allow the system to be built using standard hardware relatively cheaply.

The design of the database structure might get complicated but I see the most difficult part would be deciding what information to display. Clearly there needs to be an overall Editor in charge of the site contents and a well defined Editorial policy as well as clear routes for feedback from all parties concerned. In this respect the project would be similar to a local newspaper or magazine.

November 11, 2003 in Corporate Social Responsibility, Empowering Consumers, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


FROM: Michael Galvin

What NEED does this meet?
A local A-Z. You can use standard maps to find a city, but then if you’re looking for a bus station, restaurant, hospital, place of business etc, you're usually stopping the car and asking the toothless yokel sitting at the bus stop, who may or may not understand what you're looking for.

What is the APPROACH?
Would all be natural directions (not “proceed down road for 45 metres, take penultimate left”, but more “go past the Woolies and the Ladbrokes and on the right, you’ll see some graffiti – take a right there”). Created by local people, either on request or as default for major attractions (for example, I’m visiting Bournemouth next week, I’m staying at the Luxor hotel, how do I get to the dog track?”)

Most routes would attempt to go through at least one other major attraction, so that they can be reused, for example, if someone has already put together a route map from the bus station to the dog track and happened to pass the Luxor hotel on the way, the requisite portion of the route could be shown instead of requesting a brand new one

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Obviously, it's the help given to visitors to your town.

What is the COMPETITION?
Competition would probably be the toothless yokel :) is only a step away.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Not very. A small number of moderators would be required to gather and enter data to begin with (say 1 for most major cities) and to then subsequently review and moderate the data that is being written by visitors.

The most difficult part will be the natural language part (where dog track = greyhound track = dog racing = racing = the dogs, etc). But this will develop and improve as the site grows.

The site should quite easily be set up in a way that it could make money: Tourist offices could come on board as partners, local businesses could pay to have their offices inserted into routes ("go past PJ O'Denis solicitors")

November 4, 2003 in Geographic, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Support Groups

FROM: Damon

What NEED does this meet?
Provide software & webspace to make it simple for new virtual support groups to be created & maintained.

What is the APPROACH?
Something like phpwebsite could be used to provide useful, interactive websites that are easy to maintain.

Some of phpwebsite's features: news, calendar, comments, photoalbums, FAQ, and polls. See

It could also use mailman for providing email discussion forums.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
There are lots of small charities that may like to have a virtual support group but don't have the resources to create & maintain one.

We could make it so that a new support group website could be created with practically a single click.

What is the COMPETITION?
There are lots of support groups out there, e.g. see

But they may not have the range of features that could be made available with phpwebsite or similar tools.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
It may need some programmer time to tailor something like phpwebsite
for the needs of support groups.

The other cost is the bandwidth & sysadmin/maintenance.

November 4, 2003 in Connecting People, User Created Content, Web-In-A-Box Systems | Permalink | Comments (1)

productgrill - barcode power

FROM: Timo

What NEED does this meet?
In theory, a free market should ensure the continual improvement of products through competition - assuming consumers always choose to buy the best quality available at lowest price. In practice however, most of us have no time or patience to do research on every small
purchase or are mislead by marketing. Large retailers are becoming increasingly
skilled at capitalising on consumer ignorance and convenience and enjoy astronomical margins in certain areas.

What is the APPROACH?
Every retail product is labelled by a unique barcode (compulsory in the EU as far as I am aware) offering a quick link to information. Texting the number underneath the barcode to a
"product grilling service" could provide immediate information about the product, empowering the consumer to make a more conscious choice and increasing competitive pressure. Information would be collected though reviews from previous buyers and consumer rights orgs. It would include an easy-to-follow and standardised list of the following:
a) average product rating (poor to excellent) b) price range, price history, estimated profit margin c) alternative outlets + prices d) similar products + ratings e) ethical information f) manufacturer name and description The approach is distinctive in that it combines mobile phone and barcode technologies.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Shopping will much more relaxing and fun! Almost everyone would benfit from the service. Shoddy products and rip-offs will gradually disappear from the market. Not knowing which of 12 different olive oils to choose or buying a PC cable from high street for 15 pounds only to find out later it was 50p at the corner shop will be a thing of the past.

What is the COMPETITION?
There are various specialist test magazines, online reviews and consumer rights organisations. "Stiftung Warentest" has already
been very popular with consumers in Germany for many years if only for a limited range of products. Buyer reviews are already commonplace on internet shops. Ebay already acts as a powerful tool for price comparison. However, productgrill would be a novelty not in the information it provides, but in its speed, accuracy and convenience.
How many of us have a review magazine at hand when trying on sunglasses
in a department store?

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
A server will be required accommodate the barcode database and send/receive text messages.
Fairly expensive but cost could be covered by charging a tiny fee on every text message recieved. Cooperation with consumer rights groups/government and compilation of database would require a small number of full-time workers. People could be encouraged to send reviews by offering a "conscious consumer of the year" award to most prolific reviewer. If the scheme turns out to be successful, it could be improved by manufacturing mobile phones equipped with integrated barcode scanners. Maybe one day even with radio-frequency tag detectors capable of reviewing a whole shelf in one go. (Beat the retail giants with their own methods!)
Can be implemented EU-wide or even worldwide.

November 4, 2003 in Corporate Social Responsibility, Empowering Consumers, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (7)

Fair Traders

FROM: Rob Beattie

What NEED does this meet?
Rather than choosing someone to fix my roof, taps, lights, windows, walls or damp problem based on their advertisement, I'd like to choose them based on personal recommendation. If they did a good job for someone else, they'll probably do a good job for me. I suspect there are millions of people who feel the same.

If the initial site was a success, it could be extended to include all sorts of other types of businesses - estate agents, surveyors, financial advisors, solicitors (well, maybe not...)

What is the APPROACH?
When you come across someone who does a good job for a fair price, you type your comments into a database; similarly, if they do a poor job. The result is a bit like the feeedback an eBay user gets. Over time, it becomes clear which traders are doing a good job and which ones aren't.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Finding and paying someone to work on your house is a stressful experience, and it shouldn't be. By pooling our knowledge of local traders we can help everyone to get the job that they pay for. User feedback like this also allows smaller traders to compete with large ones on more equal terms.

According to the DTI: "In the current market it is clear however that the average consumer has little chance of distinguishing between good builders and bad builders." Fair Traders would help to even things out.

What is the COMPETITION?
Not that I know of. Certainly a number of sites will offer lists of local tradespeople but doesn't 'review' them in any sense.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
I don't know anything about coding but I'd have thought it was pretty straightforward. You'd need to be able to search by post code and the type of work you need doing. Apart from that, the site builds itself, as people share their experiences.

November 3, 2003 in Empowering Consumers, Reputation Systems, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (5)

Open, annotated mapping

FROM: Chris Lightfoot

What NEED does this meet?
Many of the other proposals here rely on the availability of high-quality mapping data and supporting applications. Unfortunately collecting this data in a distributed, "open source" fashion would be an enormous undertaking and a duplication of effort; it's not clear how good the results would be, either. Licensing it is expensive, especially for a small project. Of the twenty most recent proposals I can see now, something like a quarter have some GIS component.

My idea is to set up a mapping site (like multimap or streetmap) with the same high-quality mapping data, and an open interface to allow other users to overlay their own data (abandoned cars, volunteers, locations of meetings, houses for sale, whatever) on the site. Obviously this needs funding to license the Ordnance Survey's data -- and their willingness to grant a license on reasonable terms -- but the actual implementation of the site should be pretty easy.

What is the APPROACH?
Either set up a new site to implement a simple API for adding/removing/searching very simple map overlays onto licensed mapping data, or negotiate with an existing provider to add this service. The license would have to allow the uses to which we're putting it, and preferably some degree of republication on other projects' sites.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
It would enable many other useful projects which depend on this sort of simple GIS data, avoid duplication of effort and make possible projects for which the expense of licensing mapping data would be prohibitive.

What is the COMPETITION?
Multimap, Streetmap, etc. offer the mapping data (through a crummy user interface festooned with advertisements...), but no way to exploit the data for third-party projects. Ordnance Survey have the "Get A Map" service which will license small amounts of mapping data for use on other web pages, but the conditions of use are restrictive and you can only re-use data covering small areas. Professional GIS packages like Arc/INFO are expensive and not appropriate for small volunteer projects.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The most significant ongoing costs are licensing the map data and running the physical service -- in particular, serving map images is likely to be bandwidth-intensive. (These costs could be offset by geographically-directed advertising, and perhaps by charging a subscription to the other projects putting overlays on the map, though obviously the point is to make this charge as small possible: preferably zero for most users.) Implementation of the database and overlay API is pretty easy, probably a week's work.

November 3, 2003 in Geographic, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (13)

Abandoned car notification

FROM: Andy Sutton

What NEED does this meet?
This would beneift people who have had their cars stolen, people who have abandonded cars lurking near them that eventually get smashed and burned, and the hard working police

What is the APPROACH?
This is an idea I had ages ago, that there should be a website where people who notice what appear to be abandoned cars log the reg number somewhere, then people who have had their car stolen can look and then find out where there car is. Studys show that abandoned cars don't get vandalised straight away, but the police don't have the resources to retrieve cars or even notify owners where they are, so cars lurk until they are vandalised and often burned. The insurance value is never as much as the car is worth to the owner, so we just need some speedy way to macth cars with owners. The location of cars would not be public - the owner would have to be validated somehow before they were told where the car is.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
People get their car back, not the insurance value - fewer burned out cars in residential and other areas - police freed up to d other things

What is the COMPETITION?
I have no idea. I'm not trying to champion this. If there is a better way then that should be done. I don't feel remotely competetive about this. If it's useful it is worth doing.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
It needs server space and programming. Maybe I could do that myself though I'm no pro. It needs publicising to make it work - it will be useful only if it is widely used. I guess it will need some kind of police approval, and mechanisms for validating owners could be difficult if done through official mechanisms, or it could just be a question of giving some identifying features.

November 3, 2003 in Matching System, Perhaps Government Remit?, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (8)

Blood Network

FROM: Nishad

What NEED does this meet?
Some years ago, the government of India banned professional blood donors from selling blood (There are people in India who live by selling their blood. The Government banned this practice as as a vast majority of donors were found to have deseases that could be transmitted through blood). Ever since, there's been a shortage of blood needed for emergencies and for patients undergoing surgeries.

What is the APPROACH?
If we could set up a database of blood donors who are willing to donate at short notice. (Donor's Name, Blood Group. Location, Contact Number, Date Last donated) If someone needs blood, the family can just log on to the network and find donors easily.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Currently people have to search a great deal to find donors in the right blood group. This adds to the trauma that a family is going through at a time of a medical emergency.

What is the COMPETITION?
There are people out here, in India, volunteers who have phone books full of numbers of donors. If these numbers could be collated on to an easily searchable database, things would become very simple.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
With pro bono help, I don't think it will be very difficult or expensive.

We will have to reach the network down to small towns and villages, where the shortages are even more of a problem. Here, we may need to provide computers and networking at hospital level so that people can access the database easily.

We will also need to set up a system where we can contact people and urge them to donate blood and get listed on the blood network. This is a "Brick and Motar" (If I can call it) operation, which could become phase three of project.

November 3, 2003 in Giving stuff away, Health, International, Matching System, Perhaps Government Remit?, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (2)