Ushahidi: I couldn’t help it

I really enjoyed reading Haklay and Tobon’s (2003) article on PPGIS because it examines concepts that I can relate with my term project. The authors believe in information contributed by non-expert users in a constraint free environment; away from the office, possibly work, in your own personal space, or on the go. A decade after this article was written, mobile phones, especially smartphone apps, allow a user to both contribute and interact with non-expert generated information. I believe an ultimate PPGIS synergy has been created by linking FOSS together, in particular Ushahidi and OpenStreetMap, to represent geographic data contributed by non-expert users; on an online platform where you can text, email or Tweet information that you can then view interactively, on an OpenStreetMap interface.

User-centered design, development and deployment, and geovisualization are all critical components to a successful, efficient and usable platform. From the end-user perspective, these are all achieved. However, feelings may be mixed for developers. It is one thing to be able to send a text, Tweet, or email to a platform and interact with it, and another to use it as a template, activate, and maintain that platform. As much as these platforms are user-friendly, when will they become developer friendly? By developer I don’t mean a computer programmer, or a developer that is comfortable with coding, but someone who is new to it all but wants to learn; the non-expert of developers. Given all of this, I wonder what the authors would say of Ushahidi now. I believe in a constant need for improvement of open-source platforms, to strengthen the world of PPGIS. As difficult as the building process of the Ushahidi template can be for a newbie developer, I am astounded by the impact it has had and continues to have on the world of non-expert users.

-henry miller


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One Response to “Ushahidi: I couldn’t help it”

  1. sieber says:

    Exactly. The question is who’s the user in this equation? I’m increasingly convinced that this stuff is supposed to be user friendly for software developers who are used to code from scratch. So, of course, Web 2.0 platforms might look easy. But the non-expert users? Especially when they (you) have to do more than SMS or tweet.