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Launching an Open Data Business: Recollect.net (Vantrash 2.0)

Have you ever forgotten to take the garbage or recycling out? Wouldn’t it be nice if someone sent you a reminder the night before, or the morning of? Maybe an email, or an SMS, or even a phone call?

Now you can set it up so somebody does. Us.

Introducing Recollect: the garbage and recycling collection reminder service.

For People

We’ve got the garbage schedules for a number of Canadian cities big and small (with American ones coming soon) – test our site out to see if we support yours.

You can set up a reminder for the night before – or the day of – your garbage pickup, and we’ll email, text or call you letting you know your garbage day is imminent and what will be picked up (say, recycling, yard waste or garbage). Our email and Twitter reminders are free, and text message and phone calls cost $1.50 a month.

If you think you, your sibling, friends, or your parents might like a service like this, please come check out our website.

It’s simple and we hope you’ll give it a whirl.

For Cities

We don’t think that Recollect is going to change the world, but we do think we can help better manage citizens’ expectations around customer service. For cities (and companies) interested in connecting with their citizens and customers, we have have a number of partnering options we have already started to explore with some cities.

More importantly, if you’d like to see Recollect come to your city, have your garbage schedule and zones available for download – like Edmonton and Vancouver.

On either of these fronts, if you are a politician, city employee or a business owner who needs a reminder service of some kind, please contact us.

Background – an open data municipal business

In June of 2009, as Vancouver was preparing to launch its open data portal I wrote a blog post called How Open Data even makes Garbage collection sexier, easier and cheaper in which I talked about how, using city data, a developer could create a garbage pickup reminder service for Vancouverites. Tim Bray called it his Hello World moment for Open Data. More importantly, Luke Closs and Kevin Jones, two Vancouver programers (and now good friends) took the idea and made it real. The program was called Vantrash, and in two quiet, low-maintenance years – with no advertising or marketing – it garnered over 3000 users.

Last week we retired Vantrash. Today, we launched Recollect.

Yes, Recollect is more beautiful than its predecessor, but more importantly it is going to start serving your community. At a high level, we want to see if we can scale an open data business to a continental level. Can we use open data to serve a range of cities across North America?

At a practical level, the goal of Recollect is more basic: To help make citizens’ lives just a little bit easier by providing them customized reminders for services they use, to the device of their choice, at the time of their choice.

Let’s face it: We are all too busy being parents, holding down jobs or enjoying the limited free time we have to remember things like garbage day or little league schedules. Our job is to make your life easier by finding ways to free our minds of wasting time remembering these small details. If you aren’t trying to remember to take out the garbage, hopefully it means you can spend a little more time thinking about your family, your work or whatever your passion may be.

In short, we believe that city services should be built around your life – and we are trying to take a small step to bring that a little closer to reality.

Again, we don’t expect Recollect to change the world. But we do hope that it will serve as a building block for rethinking the government-user experience that will lay the foundations so that others will be able to change the world.

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