Everything at your postcode – proposal for a new website

Over the last few weeks, I have been imagining a website for UK citizens and visitors; where they can enter their postcode and be served a page or pages of hyperlocal links about everything to do with where they live. This post is me continuing that thinking out loud; comments — including the constructively critical — are actively solicited.

Links could be almost anything, from local government services (via DirectGov and OpenlyLocal) to public transport information; from maps to fun things. They would either link to sites which use postcodes as as an argument; or would be built using the target site’s postcode-lookup API.

The site would avoid the need for each hyperlocal website to compile its own list of such links.

Here are a few such links, based on a randomly-selected postcode, B23 6UH (I simply opened a local newspaper and picked the first advert that used a Birmingham postcode). Note that the first link is computed; the rest use the postcode directly.

User would also be able to suggest additional links if they find a good web service which takes a postcode as a locator — for now, please feel free to do so in comments on this post, and I’ll add them to the above list. Purely commercial links, like individual chains’ store locators, would be excluded (a few paid for links, clearly identified as such, might generate enough revenue to cover hosting costs).

As can be seen from the above, the site wouldn’t actually store or generate content; just links. The links could be clustered under headings, or on sub-pages, like “maps”, “local services”, and “fun stuff”.

It might also be possible for the site to determine the user’s nearest postcode, using their browser or device’s GeoLocation feature, or by selection from a map. The site would also accept partial postcodes, such as “B”, “B23” or “B23 6”.

The service could perhaps be “widgetised” for inclusion on other sites. And of course, it would be possible to link to the site using postcode as an argument.

The site would, of course, make data available in RSS, OPML and open data formats; and use microformats.

Unfortunately, though be willing to collate and maintain the links and code some HTML, I lack the programming and graphic-design skills to make such a site, which means that I must rely on the good will of others. Can you help? Should I organise a hack event (a day, or an evening) at a Birmingham venue, to work on this collaboratively?

Or does such a service — curated, rather than spammy — already exist? Would it belong better as an adjunct to an existing service like OpenlyLocal or DirectGov?

Over to you…

About Andy Mabbett

Enjoying my freelance career, helping organisations to understand on-line communities, open content, and related issues; often as a Wikimedian (or Wikipedian) in Residence.

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13 Responses to Everything at your postcode – proposal for a new website

  1. Mike Rawlins says:

    I like the idea, I have been talking to people about trying to build something similar in Stoke-on-Trent. I visioned a hash of local & central government data, crowd sourced local data and some curated other data / information.

    I don’t have the skills to do this elegantly nor efficiently but will be more than happy to draw some pictures about how it could look.

  2. I can see why you use postcodes, it’s handy for you – but people live in buildings, buildings are arranged in roads.

    Roads contain some postcodes.

    Postcodes can contain buildings which are in more than one road.

    When someone asks where do you live, you don’t reply with a postcode, you reply with a road name, or a neighbourhood.

    So why continue to foist this ‘how many letters a postman can hold in one hand’ un-intelligible, unpronounceable, letter sorting system on people?

    I live on Stratford Road in Hall Green.

    I am visiting the Moseley area of Birmingham.

    I have to go to 12 Colbourne Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham – tell me all about it.

    YES – use the resources you mentioned above to extract data, but the real value will be if you can work out how to efficiently and accurately de-reference it all – and make the data fit the people and not the other way round (that’s a new version of my motto by the way).

    I will not mention wards or super-output-areas, because no doubt you are going there too … “because thats what the data exists as”.

    Walk into a road, any road look around and tell me what the postcode and ward name is, you can’t.

    Even if you cannot work out how to do this in version 1, you might bear it in mind.

    Good luck with it all the same.

    • Andy Mabbett says:

      Paul: I posit that most people know their postcode and are using them for similar things already. However, you seem to have missed the part of my post where I say “It might also be possible for the site to determine the user’s nearest postcode, using their browser or device’s GeoLocation feature, or by selection from a map”.

      • PaulG says:

        …. but then again they might not have a device with geo-location, or they might be (potential) visitors, relocating to the area etc …

        You asked for comments – I just thought this might be a way of differentiating your service from upmystreet and the like.

  3. Moxy Park says:

    A top idea methinks.

    BCC DIY had a good stab at this, with the “near me” page, showing results from Fix My Street et al. What we built at Hackitude last year gives us a good idea of how a common data store can be built up to list all these places and services, but the data doesn’t necessarily need to be held by a central place (although caching it at least would be a good idea).

    The idea to make widgets that can be added easily to hyperlocal blogs, listing local services, amenities and so on, is massively valuable and something that’s been in my mind for a while.

    Let’s do it! 🙂

  4. Pez says:

    It’s certainly something I’ve been thinking about doing, ever since the My Area stuff I’ve done at Lichfield. There’s a wealth of web services out there that offer postcode-based APIs, and I’m sure there’d be ways to shoehorn other datasets in from elsewhere. In fact, the more I think about it, the more excited I am about it.

    There is UpMyStreet, which already exists, but this seems much more focussed on property buying and selling, rather than community stuff.

    Happy to help in any way I can 🙂

  5. We’re making some of this available on OpenlyLocal, through http://openlylocal.com/areas/postcodes/B236UH (including police info), but have held off including FixMyStreet info. Do you think we should?

    • Andy Mabbett says:

      Chris: As I’ve said on Twitter, what I’m proposing is different to what you’re doing on OpenlyLocal (indeed, it’s intended to complement that useful site). If you want to build my proposal into your site you’re welcome to, but I envisage a much wider-ranging area of coverage than you currently offer; things like snow maps, migrant bird sightings, find a postbox, etc – all done by linking out to sites (including yours) which offer such data.

      • Fair point. Hadn’t realised your were thinking of such a wide range of data. Think much of the prob will be the UI. Get that right, and the rest will follow.

        • Pez says:

          Yup, the UI would be a bit of a hurdle. I struggle at the moment with the range of info on the Lichfield My Area page, and have held off adding extra stuff for that very reason. A tabbed interface would be nice, with categories for different bits of information, even the ability to add extra stuff not available as default in a sort of widgetised interface (perhaps more specialist stuff such as wildlife sightings etc).

          Sadly design and user interface stuff isn’t really where I particularly shine (but I can give it a go), so this is where it might be nice to get a designer or two on board…

  6. David White says:

    Ooooh – Deja-vu moment when I read your blog. I write something along the same lines a few months ago. I was coming from a slightly different angle but to achieve the same result:
    http://whitebunch.blogspot.com/2010/04/how-about-national-system-of-council.html

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