Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Screenshots I Promised

Verrico Associates, to radically oversimplify, are the people you call when you spring a toxic waste leak, notice you're about to spring 175 more, and realize you're in over your head. They are a "training, consulting and auditing firm specializing in environment, health, safety, and security."

I connected to Verrico a couple of weeks ago when an old babysitter of mine talked to her brother in law, and he called his third cousin, whose veterinarian's step-sister's electrician once installed some compact fluorescent bulbs in the Verrico office.

Or something like that.

Anyway, a series of phone conversations and emails piqued mutual interest, and, on Monday afternoon, I went out to Kennett Square, PA to say hi. The Verrico folks introduced their business. I asked some questions. And then they asked me to present.

The previous conversation had me fired up. I saw that there was a projector in the room. And I figured I'd unveil the prototype.

No one has done any serious coding since early February. We've fixed bugs, changed some text, adjusted interfaces. But, to be honest, nothing has held this up but excessive perfectionism on my part. I've simply been reluctant to reach outside the inner circle.

The mood was right at Verrico, though, so I fired up the browser and walked them through the site.

It went beautifully.

Huge thanks to Jerome for leading the development of the prototype. And huge thanks to everyone else that contributed code and technical advice.

I know I just claimed that I was going to keep these posts short, but I can't resist. I have to give you the six image blog version of the demo. Comment or email for more info.

1. The front page. The name's just a placeholder, but everyone seems to dig the logo.

What do you want to buy? Toothpaste? Toilet paper? A mobile phone? A pair of basketball shoes?

2. Main stream jeans. How about a pair of jeans? Imagine you're planning on buying blue jeans tomorrow, and imagine you want to see which jeans-producing businesses are most worthy of your support.

The first thing you get is a list of main stream brands that make blue jeans, sorted by which brand of jeans get the most gold stars.

3. Gold stars. What do the gold stars mean? Why does Country Blues rank so highly?

Each gold star represents a vote of confidence from an expert, and each expert has a different philosophy about what constitutes a responsible company.

4. Non main stream jeans.
Maybe main stream brands aren't responsible enough for you. Maybe you want to see what smaller, greener, lesser known companies produce blue jeans. Or maybe you know of a non main stream jeans producer that you'd like to recommend to other users in the community.

We don't have any expert awarded gold stars outside the main stream (for now at least). We're ranking non main stream brands by aggregated user opinions instead.

5. Alternatives to jeans. Maybe even the alternative jeans don't do it for you. Maybe you need alternatives TO blue jeans.

Blue jeans isn't the best example for this. Think bottled water. Think bleach. Think gasoline.

6. Jeans wiki. For every product category, we want to see if we can get a wiki going. We figure a community of people interested in consuming more responsibly might know a thing or two about production processes. And we figure a few product category wiki pages might even grow into a wiki web of processes and materials and suppliers and companies. We'll see. Part of what we're doing is running an experiment: How much do people know? How might they want to interact? How we can help?

I'll leave it at that for now. We have a few other pages built, but the six above did the job the other night. I'll post more as we continue to push forward.

If anyone has any questions, please ask.

And if anyone's curious, here's a link to our original, pre-database, non-functional demo pages. The contrast is kind of fun. It'll be even more fun when we set some users loose on the prototype. We have a lot of work to do before we get there, but we're inching closer every day.


Doug said...

Jake - I love it, although I expected no less from you. I see an evolution to revolution. I'd love to help out when you ready to give it a test drive. I find bugs like nobody's business. Must be that proofreading background. What did the banana smell like after 6 months?

Doug Hunt

Jake de Grazia said...

It smelled faintly but unmistakably like a banana. The dog wasn't interested, however. He took a quick, nonchalant sniff and went on breaking off pieces of a stump, chewing them to bits, and spitting them out.