Apps4Edmonton – Open Data App Competition

If you follow my blog than you’re already aware that I entered an application called Alertzy in the City of Edmonton‘s Apps4Edmonton competition.  Tomorrow Chris Moore (@chrisj_moore), Edmonton’s CIO will be announcing the winners to the competition.  I thought this would be a good time for me to express some of my personal views on the competition, so that it’s clear that my opinions aren’t influenced by any of the outcomes.  I’d also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the City of Edmonton for holding the competition, and for all the developers involved in the competition for showing what a creative and vibrant development community Edmonton has.

What worked!

Lots of submissions

I’m sure I’m not the only one who was both surprised and impressed with the number of applications submitted into the competition.  There are a wide variety of applications, on a wide variety of platforms.  Some of them showed some great creativity, and I’m sure will continue to grow into successful applications.  

Great prizes

This was likely one of the contributing factors to the number of submissions into the competition.  I really applaud the City of Edmonton for their progressive IT policy, and the vision to take a risk and invest $50,000 in prizes into the competition.  It would be nice to believe that the same quality and quantity of applications would have been possible without the monetary incentive, but there’s nothing like a little cash to motivate!

Good use of social media

For those active on twitter there was an almost constant flow of traffic on the #apps4edmonton hash tag both by administrators, developers, users, etc.  It was great to see this temporary community pop-up around this competition.

Where things might be improved

Community Voting System

Having community voting as part of the competition might have seemed like a good idea on paper, but didn’t really seem to pan out in reality.  Due to the limited size of the sample size of votes, it really did devolve into a “popularity contest”.  For Alertzy I can testify that we beat the pavement to recruit anyone and everyone we knew or used to know in Edmonton to vote for us.  I can only assume other competitors went through similar processes.  I would suggest that having a separate mini-competition with a small prize for the “community favorite” to be awarded to the App with the most votes would have removed the “popularity contest” from the main competition.

Categories

The current contest used categories consistent with the plans of the City of Edmonton’s new City Vision.  This was a cool idea, but unfortunately we only had access to certain data sets, and consequently it was much more difficult to develop applicable apps for many of the categories.  I think categories aligned along other lines (for example technology such as Web App, iPhone App, Android App, etc) would allow for a more balanced distribution.

Clarity of Rules

The rules for the competition in regards to dates were often somewhat vague, and adhered to.  The community votes are the best example of this issue.  The voting was said to end on FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2010″, without clearly specifying when during this day this voting would end.  This time also came and went without any indication of a closing of voting on the site.  There was also no clear indication that the “likes” on the contest website were the “community votes” referred to in the rules. 

Another issue of contention was whether modification of applications during the two weeks of voting and judging was allowed within the rules.  For those who looked closely the following could be found in the FAQ:

 Feel free to change the app through the course of the competition. Just remembered that you will be judged on the app that exits at the close of the competition (11:59:59 a.m. MDT on Friday, August 27, 2010).

However, the ability of the judges to be able to judge an application based on what was there exactly at a given time is questionable.  

 

Conclusion!

  I want to make it cear that I’m not complaining about the competition.  I applaud the City for it’s efforts and for providing this platform for Edmonton developers to create and share.  I hope that my feedback can help improve the competition if the City chooses to offer a similar event again, or that it may help other city’s or organizations in similar competitions.

Best of luck to all entries.  I’ll see everyone at the event tomorrow evening!

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  • Chris Moore

    Ben, thanks for your feedback, and observations of the apps4edmonton competition. I want to encourage everyone involved to provide feedback as we are seriously considering this as an ongoing “annual” opportunity. Looking forward to announcing the winners tomorrow night !Chris Moore

  • skabenga

    Good observations & cool app. I totally agree with you on the points raised about the categories & voting system becoming a popularity contest where “campaigning” to raise awareness and votes became a necessary part of competing. Some of the categories were somewhat difficult to apply the available datasets too and the app entry form was missing checkboxes to specify which categories an app was being entered into.The voting system should have been closed at the final deadline on Sept 10 as votes kept trickling in over the weekend and there was no indication that the competition was now done.Congrats to the city and to all the developers who participated. There are a fascinating range of apps and I think for the first year this competition has been run there has already been a very high standard set.Look forward to seeing everyone at the awards event tomorrow night.

  • Mark Bennett

    Great post Ben! I build http://yegtrash.com as an entry for this competition and couldn’t agree with your thoughts more.Overall, I’ve come away with a really positive feeling from the Apps4Edmonton contest and think it’s gone great for a first run. The issues with voting and clarifications about rules where both frustrating, but had a minor impact on my app. I’m proud of the City of Edmonton for taking this initiative and am thrilled to see how many useful apps have come out of this. I was also impressed with how accessible and responsive the judges where to any comments posted on twitter.Great work on My Edmonton!

  • Stephen Kiers

    I agree with your post. I put up a blog post @ http://blog.stephenkiers.com/september-2010/apps4edmonton-contest as well. It is a great idea but, IMHO, needed better organization.