Five ways to think mobile first (notes for OpenGov Hackathon and BCNI Philly)

On Saturday April 28 I’ll be in Philadelphia to help with the BarCamp News Innovation unconference and Open Government News Hackathon. These events are sponsored by the Center for Public Interest Journalism at Temple University, and are part of Philly Tech Week.

Temple is my old stomping ground; I graduated from journalism school there in 1990. And I’m rather stunned at all the huge new buildings that have sprung up around the campus. Good to see the school grow!

The reason Temple brought me in to help with these events is because I’m passionate about mobile and about the Philly area. I grew up in South Jersey and still have lots of family and friends in the region. So for me, helping more people in the Greater Philadelphia Area access more useful local information, news, and services via their cell phones is not just important — it’s personal!

…This is especially pressing given the continuing rocky status of Philadelphia Media Network, which publishes the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com. My grandfather Len McAdams worked on the editorial team of “The Inky” for decades. He’d be furious to hear that earlier this month PMN was sold for the fifth time in six years — at a fire sale price of $55 million. Sheesh.

Here are a few points I’d like participants in tomorrow’s barcamp and hackathon to consider…

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Boulder better prepared for zombies than Oakland

I’m planning a move from Oakland, CA back to Boulder, CO. Clearly, one factor in this project is: how to prepare for the zombie apocalypse, wherever I am.

I checked out Map of the Dead – a great map mashup that helps you find the closest zombie survival supplies. Just enter your address to find the locations of the closest gun store, liquor store, grocery or convenience store, hardware store, outdoor store, gas station, doctor, pharmacy, military, police, radio tower, harbor, or airport.

They also list the locations of places you’d probably want to avoid during a zombie outbreak: Hospitals and shopping malls (zombies LOVE those places), cemeteries (obviously) and campgrounds (not really defensible).

I checked out the Temescal neighborhood in north Oakland, where I currently live. Here’s what I’ve got to work with, considering running distance — and it’s not looking good. I’m pretty close to several major hospitals, which tend to be ground zero in an outbreak. And not too much in the way of nearby supply locations. And, believe it or not, no nearby gun shops.

My north Oakland neighborhood: Not looking good in case of zombies. (Click to enlarge)

In contrast, downtown Boulder, Colorado seems a smarter bet for waiting out the zombocalypse. Within a few blocks there are several outdoor shops (which is probably also the best place to get survivalist food, water filters, etc.), grocery and liquor stores (if I’m facing zombies, I will need a large supply of good tequila), AND a gun store!

Downtown Boulder, Colorado. Better bet for surviving the zombocalypse. (Click to enlarge)

Also, the closest hospital is over a mile away from downtown Boulder — not even shown on this map. That’s a bonus.

The mobile version of this website isn’t bad, but could stand some further optimization. In fact, this is one of those cases when an app really would be a better option. You’d want to cache this information offline, for when the internet and cell networks go down following mass chaos. And maybe build in an option to use the phone’s antenna as a walkie-talkie, or to listen to radio broadcasts. And, of course, get the latest CDC updates on the status of vaccine development and deployment.

Plus an app could store a library of tutorial videos showing key zombie survival skills, like this: