Crowdsourcing is at its best when lots of people can contribute. When I saw Yahoo! News Singapore’s Belmont Lay offhandedly suggest an iOS app for public toilet rating, despite the initial shock, I recognized the genius of the idea. Lay asserts that this app would result in dirty restrooms getting used less (and therefore having more opportunities to clean), and clean restrooms putting in extra effort to keep up their good ratings. Lay’s idea is not yet a reality, though, so let’s run this through the Three Tenets and see what we can take from it.
- Incentive: who doesn’t want a clean bathroom? As in most CS’ing projects, the incentive is sort of rolled into the main campaign, but they could push this further if they wanted to. Prestigious-but-silly rankings of “Toilet King/Queen” could go to top contributors, or material awards such as bathroom products could be given to those whose ratings are especially useful. Additionally, establishments with exceptional bathrooms could be featured in a weekly section. The point is, there’s lots of idea space to work with here.
- Barrier to Entry: smartphones are well on their way to becoming ubiquitous, so if this app becomes cross-platform the barrier could become very low. This is good in this case; everyone uses bathrooms (presumably) so there isn’t really a group of people whose opinions would be less valuable than another. Make the app free, create a very minimal registration process, and make it simple to find and add bathrooms, and the barrier all but disappears.
- Compartmentalization: ratings are a pretty simple and straightforward process, so a simple “rate this out of 5 stars” system would work fine. It could be broken down further, though, with specific questions that contribute to an total score. I’m thinking along the lines of “Was there enough toilet paper/paper towels?” “Were floors free of unnecessary debris?” “Was the Sharpee graffiti on the wall tasteful or amusing?” Either system could work, and a space for comments would also be beneficial.
This is the sort of app that could be cobbled together in an afternoon, and everyone would find a use for it. After all, I know you’re spending all that time on the toilet playing with your smartphone anyway.