hack::Brisbane – PlaygroundCommunity

With the releasing of public data from Australian governments the Brisbane City Council (BCC) has done an awesome job making available a large range of data sets. To encourage the development community make good of this data BCC ran a competition, hack::Brisbane. The goal was to create anything to help improve Brisbane using this data in an app, web site or tool. The prize: $10,000. That was too big for me (and many other developers!) to ignore. Months of late nights were spent getting something done to enter.

What I came up with, was a very self-serving web site that hopefully serves many other Brisbane parents, and will work better if it does. For a little background, Brisbane has great weather; warm and sunny most the year. I have 3 young boys and we like to be outside as much as possible. Very often on a Saturday, if we have nothing on, and the weather is good, we like to go to a local playground. Brisbane has lots of brilliant playgrounds; over 1000 playgrounds. We like variety. Finding new playgrounds to try however, is more difficult than it needs to be. The BCC does have the information on its web site, but it is in lists by suburb of Parks. Of which you would need to check the details if it has a playground. As you can see below, not the nicest way to browse:

Listed Suburbs

Suburb Park Details

As you can also see, if you go to the site, there is more going on in the parks, like active parks events, exercise equipment, walking groupsreal adventure women events,  kids and teenager chill out programs, skate parksboat/canoe ramps, dog off-leash areas, bush land areas, bikeways and shared pathways, and featured parks which has a whole other list again. Each of these is displayed in a different way, lists of lists, PDF’s, RSS feeds and interactive maps. I would commonly browse the parks lists for playgrounds but with the release of the playground data, complete with Latitude and Longitude coordinates, I knew there was a better way. Welcome PlaygroundCommunity.

PlaygroundCommunity Web Site

Here’s the spiel I put on the About page:

Playground Community exposes in an easy to browse way all the wonderful playgrounds that Brisbane has on offer. It is especially useful for parents to find local or age appropriate playgrounds to visit. The playground information is able to be added to by anyone to extend the playground data in a useful way for the community benefit. It features:

• Playground descriptions, editable by anyone, which detail park and playground facilities and equipment
• 5 Star Community Rating
• Age appropriateness
• Picnic areas and Off-leash dog parks within the park
• Brisbane Active Parks live feed for community events held in the park
• Map filtering of playground features
• Community discussions for each playground
• Easy reporting issues to the council

Accessing this site on any phone with a mobile browser will give you a very different view. It is designed to be used on the road, using location services to find the top 10 nearest playgrounds, and gives minimal details to reduce mobile data usage.

PlaygroundCommunity on Windows Phone

The competition ended very successfully with 54 Entries, many very nice, submitted by 18th May 2012. For $20,000 (2 x $10,000 prizes) the council certainly got its money worth for the development done. There are now a bunch of Web Sites, iPhone, Android and Windows Phone apps promoting Brisbane and making more of it known to its residents and visitors. All the entries can be checked out on the hack::Brisbane entries page, including my entry. The winner is to be announced by 22nd June.

PlaygroundCommunity Entry

I didn’t get to include all I wanted to, as often happens with a hard deadline, but I am happy with what I did. In doing this project I took the opportunity to skill up a little on JavaScript and ASP.NET MVC. I tried out Visual Studio 11 Beta and therefore MVC 4.0 and made use of TFS Preview, Microsoft hosted TFS on Windows Azure, and SQL Server 2008 Spatial functions. All of which I intend to share my experiences with.

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