Way Back When (1): From Idea to App Store
It was right before Thanksgiving, 2012.
In a house with a fireplace in a jurisdiction that controls allowable burning due to periodic degraded air quality, I was in a quandary: how to know what the current restrictions were?
At the time, the electronic outreach of responsible agency was poor; it was expected that those who needed the info were watching television newscasts or reading the newspaper. I did neither which led down the rabbit hole of first, realizing that I needed to care about this, then second, how I might find out the latest information.
Of web scraping and dawning ideas
Sure enough, the “burn code” information was available, nestled safely within several layers of a governmental website, never to be disturbed by the random passerby. “Unacceptable,” I thought to myself, as I embarked on a project to expose this information more widely. Projects like this are great for learning new skills and as I had also recently (at the time) started working professionally on iOS apps, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to grow.
Thus, the first version of WashoeBurn (an app that exposed the burn codes for Washoe County, Nevada) was born.
The boring details of snarfing the data and keeping up with silent changes to the source website are not what this note is about, though they are still relevant in an important way: they forced a deeper look at not just the “burn code” but what was behind it. Why would a given day turn to “Mandatory no burn”, when might it change, who was behind these declarations?
A radical and critical realization arose: airborne pollutant measurement and reporting could always be assumed to be important of course, but it remained in realm of the scientist of the specific population especially sensitive to changes. Exposing this deeper information to a broader audience could not just inform those who already knew they cared but also those who didn’t know, and even perhaps bring some small amount of change in behavior along the way.
With a little help from my friends
It was also around this time that I started reaching out to some connections. “What might be the market for this commercially?” “If I went with a non-traditional advertising route [more on this later], would it be able to support itself?” “Who might be able to sell this advertising?” Larry DeVincenzi of the (at the time) newly formed Biggest Little Group (BLG) is who I spent the most time discussing this with.
Larry (who is a great all-around guy and, as of the beginning of 2018, be found at http://larrydevincenzi.com) was awesome to brainstorm with. It is Larry whom I credit with breaking the branding out from the smallest niche of the burn code and into a more general regional health awareness and action solution. Of course, with that transition, came the next genuine level of change, from WashoeBurn to Washoe Air.