Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Tortoise

I'm keeping the animal theme going after @tingenek's last post about riding the camel, with a reference to Aesop's fable about slow and steady winning the race.

It's a good year since we got funding thanks to Geovation and we are finally on the verge of launching the first app for android and accompanying website.

Barring any last-minute hiccups, the "Get Community Payback" app will be available to download from Google Play for android devices from October 1st 2013.

Users will be able to take photos of fly-tipping or other ugly sights, tag the location on a map and submit the information to their local Probation Trust. We'll forward nominations from other areas to the Probation Trust concerned.

In Staffordshire & West Midlands, staff can assess and review projects on a website we've developed. As projects are updated, automatic notifications go back to the person who suggested the project.

Other Probation Trusts are free to use our website to track projects in their area. The code is open source anyway so they can adopt it, adapt it or completely ignore it! Luckily, most seem interested.

People can keep track of projects on the public-facing website. There they can search a map and click on pins to reveal photos and project descriptions.

But while we've been treading carefully, learning and developing our skills, we have been overtaken by a company offering a rival service!

Paradex released a Community Payback project reporting app a few months ago, offering to e-mail project nominations to Probation Trusts for a monthly charge. They didn't ask if we were interested at Staffordshire & West Midlands, nor did they ask permission to add our video to their website!

That website ends with "org", despite Paradex looking to make a profit, and they use "official" Ministry of Justice and Community Payback logos and colour scheme. If you look very closely, you will see the small print admitting Paradex is "independent of Probation and the Ministry of Justice".

I don't have any beef with small software companies trying to identify opportunities to make a few quid, but asking cash-strapped public services for a fee so you can send them the odd e-mail?

In the end, if there is demand for the service and two apps are available, then people will use the best one and only they will be the judge of that.

We are hopeful that our methodical approach to service design and user experience will ultimately pay off as the finish line comes into view.

Keep an eye on @swmcpvisibility on Twitter for more updates in the next few weeks.


  1. I was wondering if this is just for Android or is there an iOS version too?

    By the way, I think anything that makes it easier to submit Community Payback suggestions is a good idea.

  2. Hi, Matt,

    The first version is only for android, but we're going to get an iOS one developed too - taking on board any feedback we get from the android user experience.