HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Complicating the network: The year in social media research
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Jan. 24, 2011, 11:30 a.m.

SeedSpeak: A geolocation app for better civic engagement

We’re all too familiar with terms like “community” and “engagement” when talking about online news. But what if we take it back to the root? Not Twitter followers, blog comments, or Quora questions, but instead a group of people trying to do something together?

SeedSpeak, a 2010 Knight News Challenge winner, is trying to figure out how to merge the the online and IRL concepts of community and engagement. And next month, they’ll have an iPhone app to put their civic-minded efforts into people’s pockets.

SeedSpeak‘s app will allow people to target and tag ideas (“seeds”) to places in their community that they would like to see some action taken. Think of it like SeeClickFix, or the numerous “report a problem” apps municipalities are creating that allow residents to call attention to areas that need fixing. SeedSpeak goes further by trying to create a mechanism to draw attention to projects and generate the type of interest to turn an idea into reality.

But the first step is building the right app, which SeedSpeak plans to launch in February. The app would allow allow people to create seeds as well as post photos and locate other seeds and users. Retha Hil, SeedSpeak’s co-founder told me the app needs to be intuitive in a way that makes it easy and familiar for people to post their seeds.

“Once you are used to taking a picture or posting something, like a local restaurant in Yelp, we think people would be more inclined to say ‘Let me share this idea with my neighbors to improve our community,'” she said.

If geolocation seems like a good bet right now, it’s likely due to the success of games like Foursquare and Gowalla as well as services like Groupon and Yelp. The lesson from the location-based boom is that “user experience is very, very important. You don’t want it to be so complex that it turns people off,” Hill said.

But unlike the larger players in location-based apps, or even newspaper apps, SeedSpeak has to get their product right from the beginning or risk the possibility of not getting a large base of users, Hill said. Anyone with a smartphone can tell a story of an app they tried once and never used again, in that way the technology breeds loyalty through the ability to use an app repeatedly.

In rolling out SeedSpeak Hill and co-founder Cody Shotwell are focusing on the Phoenix metro area to start (though the site and app will allow you to plant seeds anywhere) and reaching out to specific groups, such as neighborhood associations, to test the app. From there they may try to find partners who could promote or integrate the service. Hill said news sites and blogs focusing on specific communities would be a natural fit. But as they grow Hill said she could see SeedSpeak being of use to nonprofits, advocacy groups or even politicians looking to gauge the viability of community projects.

“This is a way to try and get your neighbors excited about an idea and its important to give a path to make it happen,” Hill said.

SeedSpeak fits with the Knight Foundation’s goal of meeting the information needs of communities, but in another way what they are creating is a tool for citizen journalism with seeds taking the place of stories. [Disclosure: The Lab also receives funding from Knight.] When someone creates a seed calling for stoplights at a dangerous intersection it meets the same civic role of bringing awareness to problems in a community. It’s no different than a homeowner/neighborhood group pitching a story to a newspaper. (Which, if you think about it, could also potentially make SeedSpeak a tool to discover stories for local journalists.)

Hill said the goals are similar, put people in better position to change their community. “If you can show there are people behind an idea or momentum and show it to officials in power you can make a difference,” Hill said

POSTED     Jan. 24, 2011, 11:30 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Complicating the network: The year in social media research
Journalist’s Resource sifts through the academic journals so you don’t have to. Here are 12 of the studies about social and digital media they found most interesting in 2014.
News in a remix-focused culture
“We have to stop thinking about how to leverage whatever hot social platform is making headlines and instead spend time understanding how communication is changing.”
Los Angeles is the content future
“Creative content people are frustrated with the industry and creating their content on their own terms. Sound familiar?”
What to read next
847
tweets
Here’s some remarkable new data on the power of chat apps like WhatsApp for sharing news stories
At least in certain contexts, WhatsApp is a truly major traffic driver — bigger even than Facebook. Should there be a WhatsApp button on your news site?
429What’s the right news experience on a phone? Stacy-Marie Ishmael and BuzzFeed are trying to figure it out
“Nobody has to read you. You have to earn that. You have to respect people’s attention.”
343Come work for Nieman Lab
We have an opening for a staff writer in our Cambridge newsroom.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Lens
New England Center for Investigative Reporting
Austin American-Statesman
INDenverTimes
Apple
Foursquare
Amazon
News Corp
E.W. Scripps
Tribune Publishing
DNAinfo
Newsday