A few weekends ago on Dec 3rd, I participated in my first hack day for the Farm Bill / International Open Data Hackathon, organized by the folks over at Food+Tech Connect, and Gojee (one of my favorite recipe discovery sites). For those unfamiliar with the Farm Bill, it’s a piece of legislation that affects the farming and agriculture industries, specifically on what is grown and promoted in our country.
It’s revisited every 5 years and will be enacted in 2012. Rebecca Klein and Destin Joy Layne, from The Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future (CLF) and the GRACE Foundation respectivly, asked us to come up with a tool that would use the social graph to bring more awareness and participation to Meatless Monday. It is a day dedicated to eating a vegetarian diet to encourage a healthier lifestyle, and more importantly to reduce our individual carbon footprints. With Niles Brooks and Joe Merante as the developers, and Jill Peterson and I as the designers, we created Meatlessly, a mobile application to encourage you to participate for the long haul in Meatless Monday . It reminds you and keeps track of your participation, and allows you to seeing what others are also doing on that day. We included a point system to make it a little bit more fun, lightweight, and perhaps competitive when you see how well you fair against your friends.
Let’s take Daniel as an example user. He is 34 years old and is a software developer. He enjoys leading an active lifestyle as a climber and biker, and eats a healthy well-balanced diet including meat. He heard about Meatless Monday and decided that it’s a cause he could get behind, but needed some help getting started. He downloads the Meatlessly app onto his phone.
Every Monday at 9am in the morning, the application alerts Daniel. It’s a small friendly nudge to help him start his day on the right foot, beginning with his first meal of the day. Once the application is opened, he is prompted with a “participate” button. By clicking on it, he is actively acknowledging and agreeing to join all the other Meatless Monday-ers to eat a vegetarian diet that day. It’s based on an honor system. Daniel clicks on it, which simultaneously updates his Twitter and Facebook status to let others know about his participation.
For every week that he goes Meatless Monday, he earns one point up to 52 points for 52 weeks in the year. For the purposes of the short hackathon, this page only shows Daniel’s score. If we were to build this out further, we would like to have milestone badges and more in-depth statistics, and to show how well he fairs against his friends.
In the feed, Daniel would be able to see status updates, restaurant check-ins, and shared photos of dishes and recipes from both his friends and other Meatless Monday-ers. He feels encouraged to see the peer support and what others are doing for this same cause. He can click on each status update for a more information.
Since Daniel is feeling a bit lazy today and does not want to cook dinner, he can use the search functionality to find nearby “Meatless Monday Approved” spots. It’s convenient and he doesn’t have to have a headache over where he can eat while maintaining his meatless promise.
Niles and Joe built what we currently have live today on on Meatlessly.com. After authenticating using your twitter handle, you are brought to a page that gives you a single key action to take that day to participate in Meatless Monday. In this case it’s eating an avocado sandwich. The second feature is the feed which is currently populated with tweets that meet two criteria 1) they have keywords such as with #meatless, #mm, or #meatlessmonday and 2) they are registered users of Meatlessly.com.
What has been built so far is only a very small part of what we had envisioned. We were super excited to have won second place at the Hackathon. We’d love to get more Meatless Monday members on board with our idea and hope to have the opportunity and support to build the real thing!