2 posts about kestrel

Kestrel update.

Feb 20 2008

Things are looking great so far with this hairbrained project of ours.

Fabulous, actually: Bolt | Peters is super interested in the project and wants me to work on it for some percent of my total time at work. Which is fan-freaking-tastic! Thanks BP!

If you have no idea what I am talking about, check out my last post about it.

But, in short, these are the three things that I love about Kestrel already:

Kestrel is a web application for farmers. Kestrel is a participatory design project. Kestrel is an open source project. Kestrel is a user-centered project. (Deeply so; as in, we won't build it if it doesn't solve real-people problems.)

Ok that was four. Anyway, I've gotten so much great feedback already by email phone and comment — and I am now setting up interview dates. Let me know if you would like to talk on the phone for about an hour. We'll be gathering feedback about the initial concept and looking at some first drafts of first drafts. Basically, we're gabbing on the phone for a bit and I'm taking some notes.

You can participate in a number of ways:

  • Giving feedback based on your professional experience (as a farmer, user researcher, designer, guru ...)
  • Giving feedback based on your experience with other applications for famers.
  • Giving feedback as a CSA manager, owner, or eater.
  • Giving feedback as one of my parents, friends or online weakly linked nodes.
  • Etc.

Please leave a comment or email me at unthinkingly at gmail if you want to participate. You know you wanna. Research is fun!

We're conducting real live conversations, not just email exchanges, though email is also a great way to give feedback. Also, note that, as much as possible, we'll be recording interviews; part of the point of this project is that the methodology will be completely documented. We record stuff partly just part of the public nature of participatory design, partly because we want to get as much informed criticism as possible, but also because we want to teach other communities of practice to create a web app!

Dammit, if we (as a very small, active team) can build something that work really well for 50 farmers, then we probably have created something that will work really well for 50,000 farmers.

Thanks to tes, Andrea, Beck, Mary, Chris R., Rick, Ben, Mike, Nate and Anne for commenting already on the previous post; we already have strong support in San Francisco, Portland and Central NC.

Kestrel: A Simple Web App for Community Supported Agriculture

Jan 3 2008

I'm just getting started on a new project nicknamed Kestrel.

The basic idea a simple and user-centered web app that helps facilitate ordering, billing and member management for CSA's. Things are JUST getting started and I am soliciting help in doing some feasibility research as well as a basic evaluation of existing CSA management applications.

A CSA, (for Community Supported Agriculture) is a way for the food buying public to create a relationship with a farm and to receive a weekly basket of produce. By making a financial commitment to a farm, people become "members" (or "shareholders," or "subscribers") of the CSA. Local Harvest

So far were in stage zero: Over the holidays I was brainstorming with some of my agri-geek friends in North Carolina, notably tes thraves. (I like to say that tes is to poverty + agriculture issues as Jay-Z is to hip-hop — a badass producer who just makes things happen.) :) So far there's been a lot of excitement about it from both consumers and producers.

  • Stage zero is lots of talk over drinks around the New Year's bonfire, basically. Check.
  • Stage one is research about what real CSA's need.
  • Stage two is getting a few CSA's to pilot test a first iteration for a season.
  • The rest is iterating and improving based on real feedback. This is the hard part. And the fun part.
  • The only real spec so far is an application that is incredibly simple and driven purely by a real understanding of the users' needs.

    There is no timeframe yet. I imagine things could take a year or so; nobody's getting paid by Kestrel.

    Codewise, I've done some simple scaffolding of the application, but really I think the requirements for this type of thing are simple — the codebase is not really the issue. Just a few forms, login/out and billing. So I'm not looking for help from coders as much as I am trying to garner some interest from A) the users of the application, farmers and consumers and B) people with experience in user-centered application design and user testing.

    The goal is a management tool that would simplify the process of ordering food from your CSA, but also serve as an educational model of CSA best practices.

    Right now I'm thinking a hosted solution, almost certainly built in Rails. And of course completely Open and Free.

    The basic use case comes from my mom : she doesn't like very much lettuce in her box. Last year she got six heads of lettuce at a time. So ideally mom could just login and set her preference, pay her bill, update her address, give notice that she's out of town for a month, etc. The farmer then knows exactly how many heads of lettuce to harvest, and can keep the rest in the ground until going to the market on Saturday.

    It's not a new idea, I know. There are several in San Francisco. I haven't seen them yet. But I am sure that they're not as good as they can be and I want to put the users at the front of developing a new open source solution.

    CSA's are great for environmental, social and economic reasons. And they're really just a lot of freaking fun. So if you are a consumer or producer with opinions about what you'd like to see in this type of software, let me know in the comments or unthinkingly-at-gmail.com.