To be very honest, I am tired of talking about this project. But it took a better 9 years of my life. I have done so much good work in that period and so little to show for it feels. If I exclude this from my CV there is gab, if I pretend it was all wonderful I lie. So I just tell it as I see it even though it is not fun to talk about.
I spent about 9 years on a project called Caloom. Caloom is a name derived from 2 words: Carta & Bloom. By mixing it up in an online word-tool I got Caloom as one of the outcomes. I registered the domain name and there a 9 year project had started.
Caloom, in hindsight, has had 4 phases (phase 2, phase 3 and phase 4). The first which I will outline here, was a direct response to my findings when studying financial and energy markets back in 2005-2007 (or 2008). The short version of this story is that it was depressing but insightful. Around 2006 it became clear to some people we were heading for a financial depression or collapse and that inspired me.
Caloom #1 – helping others
Are we prepared for such a collapse I asked myself? I began to look and ask around. I asked people first but no one seemed to care. I got enthusiastic nevertheless and contacted governmental organizations, through informal networks, and the signal I got was there was some concern. This triggered an idea:
what if we could build a more resilient society that could withstand a possible financial downturn?
My research into resilience continued and as I progressed in understanding what makes a society resilient I became alarmingly aware that our society has shifted away from this. Social cohesion had broken down, people did not know their neighbors, the food supply via centralized distribution systems last for about 4 days and the list was long and worrisome.
Is there something I could build to reverse this trend?
Could I reconnect people, could I improve the production of local produce, dairy, livestock and more? This was a too big of a task that’s for sure. I needed to be smart and start at a strategically important junction. In my talks with people I picked up a few recurring themes:
- I got no time
- I do not know (read trust) my neighbors
- I have not the money nor tools
Then I linked that to my findings when talking to the government, third sector and smaller private companies. They got some time, reputation, tools (including knowledge) and some money. But they complain many citizens do not know about these. A good example is how my own community, Hattula, has equipment to organize an outdoor event but very few people know about this. So the loudspeakers and PA stuff, the market stands, tables and chairs is piled up mostly unused somewhere.
To me this smells like a disconnect. Information is not flowing from the one who needs to the one who has a solution. Nor does it flow from the one who has something to the one who could use it or be inspired by it. As I am not a demagogue and like to go out there and stand in a market square evangelizing my beliefs but still felt this urge to solve this problem I needed to be smart about this.
I understand systems, logic, patterns, service development, UX and UI and design processes in general. Why not build a system that brings these parties, resources or data streams, together. Once again I went back to my research and saw that the government, third sector and small companies had combined a long list of needs and wishes. So did my friends and people, as in private people, had a long list of wishes and desires. I stepped back for a while and saw the underlying logic.
Any wish, complaint, desire, need and so forth had a few of the following elements in them:
what, when, where, who, worth
You need to see this on an abstract level but it is basically how our language is constructed.
With these 5 words I could work, I can come up with a system that encapsulated those 5 words and let people describe their needs and solutions. During the summer of 2009 this was successfully built. We had a location based service that could be used by any imaginable organization or entity, asking or offering any imaginable needed based on 1 engine. The clue was to create a meta system which would link the different expressions of e.g. “what” to the central “what” entity.
If you where looking for a book (what) or a bike (what) or a potato (what) it all would be part of the one and same “what” structure in our database. The book and bike would fall under a product sub category whereas the potato would fall under the food and vegetable category. That is if we consider a potato a vegetable. Then the categories allow for aliases as there are more than one way to create classifications.
I short, we had figured out a way to accomplish this and the solution was very elegant. It stalled for a long time after the excellent coder (and human) spent his summer holiday on this project and had to get back to other things. Many other people tried to continue but to no avail. I needed someone who could help to make the front end ready for accepting (paying) customers. But everyone wanted to rebuild the whole system and nothing was ever delivered up until a few years later and our savings drained.