Virtual Vancouver

A few weeks ago, I was invited to present a super-speedy Pecha Kucha talk at Vision Vancouver’s Annual General Meeting. Pecha Kucha talks move fast: you get 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide – and that’s it. It’s a fun, adrenaline-filled format (and a blessing for the audience as you don’t have to wait too long if you’re not enjoying a particular speaker!).

We were asked to prepare something Vancouver-specific, so I decided to share a bunch of digital projects that I think are making Vancouver a better city to live in. They range from the slightly silly to having real historical significance.

In the process of developing this talk, I was delighted to discover some app and other projects that were new to me. I never cease to be inspired by the creativity and skill of the people in my communities.

I’ve uploaded an MP3 of me giving the actual talk, so you can listen to it while you view the slides. And links to all the projects featured in the talk are listed below.

  • Street Food Vancouver: keep track of all the fabulous food carts we now have in the city, and rate your favorites.
  • Had a Glass (I mention this app in passing but there’s no slide for it): a guide to the best wines under 20 bucks that you can buy at BC Liquor Stores
  • BTAworks is the civic research arm of Bing Thom Architects, and their data analysis work provides some amazing insights into our city – like what the impact of rising sea levels would be on our shorelines, and how if you want to buy a home for less than $1 million, you generally want to look east of Main.
  • HistoryPin (an app developed in the UK, but used by the City of Vancouver Archives) lets you browse through archival photographs of Vancouver via a map interface, and you can upload your own photos to layer over top of the archival ones for an interactive before-and-after effect. You can add stories as well. If you’ve ever wandered around town and wondered, “What used to be here? What did this corner use to look like?”, this is an incredible tool.
  • The Vancouver Public Library’s Mobile App is really handy: I use it whenever a friend recommends a book for me – I pull out my smartphone, fire up the VPL app, and place a hold on the book right then & there. It has some great social features as well: user reviews & ratings, and so on.
  • This Is Our Stop is a fun little app that lets you get social at your bus stop, and get tips from other riders about stuff like how the coffee tastes at the cafe across the street, or the troubling preponderance of #4 and #7 buses traveling together.
  • Vancouver Hack Space is a real-world hangout, studio space, and learning lab for anyone who enjoys making stuff and learning from their peers. In some ways VHS defies the “digital project” theme for this list, but many of their members are coders and science geeks, and they do a lot of electronic stuff – like a build-your-own-synthesizer workshop.
  • Tap Map: This is an app from Metro Vancouver that lets you find water fountains anywhere in the metro area. Super helpful for those who carry a water bottle – or are trying to cut down on drinking bottled water.
  • Where Post: If, like me, you can’t fathom why Canada Post doesn’t publish data on where to find a mailbox, you’ll be delighted to know about this app. It’s a crowdsourced app for finding mailboxes – so get in there and start adding mailboxes near you.
  • Recollect: If you’ve ever forgotten to take the recycling out, you want to sign up for Recollect. It’s a reminder service – you just enter your address, it figures out what pickup schedule you’re on, and it sends you a reminder by email, text message, Twitter or phone to tell you it’s garbage day. Easy & indispensable.
  • Parents on the Drive is maybe the lowest-tech thing in this talk – it’s a Yahoo Group that’s been around since 2005, providing a space for east van parents to share resources about education, childcare, health, activities, and all things parent- and kid-related. Recent threads include a request for help for a low-income single mother, which garnered dozens of offers of help. If that’s not real community in action, I don’t know what is.
  • The Shorty List: When I got pregnant, my friends warned me that the daycare situation in Vancouver was dire and I’d better get on wait lists ASAP. The Shorty List was an invaluable tool for comparing daycare options in town and gathering all the information I needed.
  • On The Go Kids is a new app from Annemarie Tempelman-Kluit, the creator of the beloved yoyomama email newsletter – it’s all about finding activities for kids around town. You can browse the events using your iPhone’s GPS to find the ones that are closest to you, or sort by a variety of categories.
  • Ayoudo helps you find people in your local community to help you do stuff – and lets you help other people, for free or for money. Right now they have a “Social Garden” going that helps gardeners connect to each other for help and advice.

It was a ton of fun compiling these projects – and I’d love to hear about others. If you know of community-focused projects that are making Vancouver more awesome, please share them in the comments.