Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2017 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Idea - co-ordinating a web hub thing for local highstreet shops

A few weeks ago I received a survey from Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. I didn't fill it in because the small print creeped me out a bit but one of the questions intrigued me. It was "what can the Mayor do to improve the health of highstreet shops?"

Here is my suggestion.

A website 'hub' of info about local shops, curated by shopkeepers / community
It's now very, very easy for anyone to set up a website using free basic tools such as Google Sites or a low cost one that's a little fancier. My suggestion is that one or two of the nerdier people in a row of shops agree to maintain a website for all the shops in that area on a particular site which is then publicised (eg in newsagents' windows and local newspapers for starters). At its most basic it need only have the names of the shop and the order in which you'd find them when walking down a highstreet. If required, each shop name could have a sub-page which has information on its opening times, contact details, types of items sold etc. As such a basic website would be scaleable in that people could add more information if they wanted to or had time. When a shop moved away and another replaced it, the website could be amended.

Each local website could be collected together under an umbrella 'highstreets' site, searchable by area, postcode, shop name, even product. In this way you can 'drill into' London » Greenwich borough » Blackheath » Blackheath Village (or Blackheath Royal Standard) » highstreet shops.

There's a great precedent here but it's run by a company.

Streetsensation - Google streetview for the posh or touristy shops of London
This is already done extremely effectively for some of the more touristy posh shops in London - for example Streetsensation is a company which has mapped the shops for places like Marylebone High Street and Oxford Street.

Recently I walked from Camden to Oxford Street intending to go to HMV and I couldn't remember, when I got to the bit where Regent Street and Oxford Street intersect, whether I should go left (yes) or right (no). I should have visited these pages beforehand - see the blue number [7] marked here. You can then click on the 7 and see all the shops, as they are when you're walking past them, that run from 178 to 136 (because the numbers get smaller in that direction I presume) on Oxford Street. Basically you can see exactly where each shop is and all their spatial arrangements. 

Not only that but you get contact details for most of the shops, so you can ring them up and say "when do you close?" and most of them have a link that goes to their website. Annoyingly it's an affiliate link that pops up in a window where the URL is hidden (can't right click open in new tab either) but we can't have everything.

Could something like this be translated to local shops - all that's needed is a photo of each shop, their contact details (maybe even opening hours), a link to their shop and information about where they are in relation to the other shops (eg at the end of the row, next to the hairdressers - this can be obvious from a knitted together panoramic shot). Possibly local councils might get behind this too.

Have a play with Carnaby Street and imagine something more basic but conceptually similar for your local highstreet shops.

[Edit: 11 July 2012 I might make a start on a Blackheath page unless anyone knows of one already...]

Why do I think this is beneficial?
It increases the amount of useful information about an area and makes it available to people both in and not in that area (visitors!) via the internet. I hesitate to suggest that knowing what shops are in an area might make someone more likely to visit ("oh I didn't know there was a bookshop in X") but that would definitely work for me. I'm often surprised, when on detoured bus journeys, to discover some interesting shop that I'd not known about.

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