Hyperlocal: Give me your ideas, I’ll (try and) make it happen.

Some of you may be aware that I’ve begun writing a WordPress plugin using OpenlyLocal. It’s not the only thing I’m working on though, and I have lots of ideas. However, I know that there’s plenty of hyperlocals out there that probably have their own ideas of what would make their life easier, or just more interesting.

So I’m asking: what tools do you want for your hyperlocal? Try and think about the things that you don’t find it so easy doing as well as the ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’ ideas. Here are some of mine;

  • OpenlyLocal
    • Upcoming meetings widget
    • Councillor information attached to posts
    • Meeting information attached to posts (e.g. links to minutes, those in attendance)
    • Councillor profiles
    • Contact the council widget
  • TheyWorkForYou widget (showing recent activity by your MP)
  • WriteToThem widget (i.e. a button for direct access to e-mail your MP/councillors)
  • FixMyStreet alerts widget
  • Weather widget (including flood warnings – and Andy Mabbett suggested tide times for coastal locations and pollen counts)
  • Recent investigations (powered by Help Me Investigate)
  • FoI requests widget (powered by WhatDoTheyKnow)
  • Upcoming blood donation sessions (thanks to John Cronin)
  • Schools (I don’t know what but something with schools)
  • Hospitals, doctors surgeries, dentists (actually, this is leading onto an Uber Map)
  • Police information (such as recent arrests, appeals, upcoming surgeries)
  • Travel news; including public transport (thanks Martin)
  • Planning applications (hat-tip to Martin again)
  • Food safety ratings (e.g. through the excellent RateMyPlace)
  • Eating out guide, including integration with RateMyPlace
  • Health services, such as comments from NHS Choices (thanks to Will Perrin for this one)
  • Early Day Motions signed by your MP, using EDMs.org.uk
  • Local sports club results & league tables (thanks Ed)
  • ‘Tell us what’s going on locally’ like on Berkamsted People (via Josh)
  • A Groups Near You widget
  • Petrol prices (cheers Ed!)
  • Yoosk! …I don’t know what, but something needs to be done with Yoosk.
  • Tweetminster widget showing councillors/MPs who tweet, maybe aggregate their tweets.
  • Schools closures (e.g. when there’s a tiny smattering of snow)
  • Bin collections (and warnings when the torrent of snowfall comes)
  • Bus routes/timetables/announcements
  • School holiday dates

I’m thinking all those will also be available in the WordPress admin for blog owners to use them to generate stories. I’ve probably missed something too, so suggest away!

24 thoughts on “Hyperlocal: Give me your ideas, I’ll (try and) make it happen.”

  1. These widgets would be really useful for MPs’ websites too. Only sticking point would be that links to external sites need to be clearly marked (preferably with a dialogue box) or they wouldn’t be able to use them. Would be ace if that was configurable in the options.

  2. A local sports app would be good, showing fixtures, results etc. Very powerful for local sports clubs. Would depend on those clubs having RSS enabled, but potential is there.

    I second pretty much all in this list, but if I had to pick three to be developed in the next 12 months I’d go for:

    FixMyStreet alerts
    Schools league table app
    Eating Out Guide

    Ed

  3. As with Ed, I second everything added – a very comprehensive collection.

    First and foremost, I’d run with planning applications, FixMyStreet and TheyWorkForYou.

    I’m also a fan of this ‘Tell us what’s going on locally…’ widget on the Berkhamsted News site: http://www.berkhamstedpeople.co.uk/ – I think it uses the brevity and simplicity of Twitter quite well.

    Enjoying the conversation,
    Josh.

  4. Road closures (possibly covered under traffic news?)

    I think the NHS stuff is already available (I have details at work; will check tomorrow – remind me!)

    Tide times for coastal locations.

    Pollen counts.

  5. Following up on my comment mentioning local traffic news, and the Transport Direct API (as appears to be used on belocal.com), I have finally managed to get a response from Transport Direct and have been told “Due to data and operating agreements, the Transport Direct API is not available to commercial users at present, and we are unable to help because of the commercial implications as a government service”. Just thought i’d mentioned it here to save anyone else (who is looking to make some money from their site) from wasting their time.

    P.S. if anyone is aware of any other decent sources of local traffic news outside London i’d love to know.

  6. I think the ideas mentioned so far would create very useable hyperlocal tools that would provide the information that people want to see when they hit a site.

    One idea that I had was to provide information about local shops – ie, opening times, locations and goods provided. This could become part of a local amenities widget – providing information about local attractions and so on.

    Also, how about one that showed local charities – information on what they are doing at the moment, upcomming events and so on – this would obviously depend on the charity being able to provide this information in a specified format.

    Im not sure if any one has mentioned a job widget – showing local vacancies – or people looking for work – this would probably come under classifieds though.

    Ooooo and one more idea – how about a widget that reported on road works in the area – something that i think a lot of people would benefit from.

  7. @Martin – that’s interesting. I wonder if that excludes web sites who do generate income but not from the Transport Direct data itself. I.e. we have a post about road works in Lichfield, next to which we have a list of local travel news and then some local business ads.

    @Tom – All great ideas, most of which have been covered in the post on ways to generate income from hyperlocal funnily enough. The charities makes an interesting addition and I was only thinking the other day about providing “public service ads” of some sort. The road works should be available via Transport Direct, as Martin suggested.

  8. My interpretation of the response I got from Transport Direct is that if the site is commercial in any way, irrespective whether the income is related to the use of the traffic news, then your bang out of luck.

    Quite ridiculous really. Surely the whole point of creating the data is to aid people in avoiding bad traffic and to help keep the country moving. Until I started looking into data for hyperlocal I didn’t even know Transport Direct existed and they have some great information that the general public simply does not know is available.

  9. I’ve written to my MP (who knows The Lichfield Blog very well) to ask if he would ask the Dept. for Transport about the availability of the API for commercial/non-profit use and whether there are any plans to make it more available. I’ll let you know what happens.

  10. Hi Philip,

    I run a ning site for our local arts sector. http://monarts.ning.com We currently have a google map to create a local map of arts organisations. We also have a google docs form where users can submit their own information, but translating those entries into map listings requires a manual input.

    I think some embeddable widget that allows users to enter their own details, and then both spits the data to a spreadsheet or db AND auto generates a google maps entry would be really useful for mine and other hyperlocal sites.

    Thanks for the great work,

  11. Thanks John, that’s a good suggestion – it was only the other day that I was wondering why tennis courts are charged for!

    They don’t provide a nice format for the list of courts so I’ve made contact to see if I can get them to provide that.

  12. Good work, here is my suggestion. “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” there was a WordPress plugin which let you add advert slots as sidebar widgets and your readers could click on it and buy a text advert. Money would be paypal’d to the site owner. Simple, instant ad empowering system with publisher getting 100% of the income.

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