Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Think Small

Why did Pittsburgh win the iPhone App "space race" when Boston announced their app over a month ago? Is it because we have a younger mayor? No. It's because we're small. Less bureaucracy means more flexibility.

Instead of being born in an official policy brainstorming session, the city iPhone App was one of Councilman Peduto's many ideas. When Councilman Peduto saw a need for a city iPhone App, he did not go through the proper channels. He did not contract a company. He just started a conversation with a local start-up company who saw some opportunity for synergy. YinzCam wrote a simple, easy-to-use app, and now you can download it. End of story. David always beats Goliath.

Another example of smart small local companies is Deep Local. This start-up is working with Port Authority to create and test Route Shout, which allows you to make use of phone-texting to find out when the next bus is coming.

Obviously, we're not going to be able to build a new light-rail line using these methods. But little quality of life improvements can add up to make a big difference in our city. Any other examples I've missed? Can Pittsburgh become the city where new, innovative ideas are given a chance without needing to jump through hoops and fill out paperwork in triplicate? Can we be the city that attracts entrepreneurs that are sick of the status quo. "Every journey begins with a single step." And we've taken the first small step.


shadow said...

buskarma, a.k.a. bus.maya.com, came along long before there was such a thing as google transit, and in many ways was among the first generation of transit-centric online innovators.

part of it is interest from people with the technical background to make it happen. we thankfully have a lot of those people here

Bram Reichbaum said...

Do you think Boston was aware it was in a race? Perhaps when theirs comes out it will have more features.

n'at said...

theirs may be available for android and crackberry. :/

illyrias said...

I doubt Boston is aware they're in a race. I also found it interesting that half the blogs/news sources I read about the Boston iPhone App acted as though it was already released - they won the perception race back on July 6 when they announced that they would be the first city to have an iPhone app.

In terms of functionality, I was disappointed with the scope of iBurgh, but looking into the Boston app, it appears they were just as short-sighted. Their app is also merely intended to supplement their 24-hour complaint hotline. Though it does have a more clunky, policy name "Citizens Connect." You must admit iBurgh is much more catchy.