The blog has been pretty silent for a long time, I know. No, I didn’t forget about you; I’ve been hard at work making Waste Nothing better. Here is a short (okay, not that short) summary of the major new things since the start of 2012. My favourite is the new maps features, which have been planned for over a year.
- It is sometimes said that there are two sorts of people, those who search, and those who browse. In reality, everyone does some browsing and some searching.
- Previously Waste Nothing had excellent search capability but not much in the way of browsing. In January we launched full browse capability, with the most popular and largest categories shown right on the home page, and special ‘browse’ pages (e.g. Housewares) that make it easy to find items in those categories. I’m using the word “category” here to make it easier to read, but to Waste Nothing, categories and items are the same thing (items), which is what makes our system so flexible.
- On every item page (e.g. Clothing) there are links at the top to more specific items (e.g. Baby Clothing, Dress Clothing), because they will often have better tips that are specific to them. That’s why you should always be as specific as possible. To better facilitate browsing and finding the correct item, item pages now show similar items when there are no more specific items to show. For example, the Pencils page suggests Pens and Pencil Crayons.
- Images for Users and Tips
- Starting in February, user profile pages have been much improved, including the ability to add your own profile photo. A profile photo was previously only available to those who logged in with Facebook.
- More significantly, tips can now have images too. You can select an image by using your profile photo, uploading, specifying an image on the web, or choosing any previously used image. Images make Waste Nothing look better, and easier to scan and identify great tips. Tips with images now make other tips look dry and boring by comparison. Tip images are also a great way for non-profits and other organizations to include their logo.
- Contact Information and Locations
- Waste Nothing has accepted contact information (organization name, website, phone number, email address, and address) for some time, but now in a much more sophisticated way.
- When creating a new tip, you can now choose to use the same contact information as was added for an earlier tip, rather than retype all the same information again. This is useful for organizations which accept a number of items and have somewhat different instructions for each.
- Even more significantly, you can now add multiple sets of contact information and locations. Many organizations have multiple locations, and you may really only be interested in the closest one, not necessarily the headquarters. Where to do with old drywall in Toronto? Take it to a depot, a tip which includes all 7 of the city’s recycling and solid waste depots. Where to donate toys? How about donating them to Goodwill through any of the many stores and drop-off locations they have in Ontario, as listed on that tip.
- Just like a tip’s contact information and location, you can apply any set of multiple locations to newly added tips, saving you from entering them all in again.
- Fantastic Maps
- Back in November we added basic maps (provided by Google) to show the one location a tip may have. With all the new locations available, it was time to take this to the next level. These new map features launched throughout March.
- If you followed the links for Toronto depots and Goodwill above, you’ll have seen some of our new maps on tip pages. Instead of showing a single location, they now show all the locations that apply to that tip. Locations, when there are more than one, are now listed in order of how close they are to you, except for the primary location if there is one, which is always listed first.
- To make it easier to see visually, your own location is shown on the map as well. If you are accessing Waste Nothing on a modern web browser, you will be prompted to allow access to your location, which is used for ordering locations by proximity and for placing you correctly on the map. If you are using an older web browser or do not allow access to your location, you’ll be places in the center of the city or area of you have set on Set Your Location.
- Maps will automatically be zoomed and panned to show yourself plus the five nearest locations.
- Even more exciting than maps on tip pages are maps directly on item pages. So if you look up, say what to do with an unwanted couch, you’ll see a map showing all the locations for all the tips for couches. You can still scan through all the tips as before, but now it is easy to see how close you are to several small charities that accept couches as well as all the Goodwill locations.
- The map is easy to read, because the map markers take advantage of the tip images, e.g. the Goodwill locations have tiny Goodwill logos placed on the map. Tips without images will use a general icon for that category (recycle, reuse, etc.).
- All maps have also been switched over to OpenStreetMap-based maps. For those not familiar, OpenStreetMap is essentially the “Wikipedia of maps,” built by everyone. It is of excellent quality now and can be improved by you.
- Better Mobile Version
- Waste Nothing was built from the beginning to be very accessible, and thus has always worked reasonably well on most mobile phones.
- As of March 16, Waste Nothing no longer merely “works” on mobile phones, but is optimized to suit them. Or to put it more accurately, Waste Nothing is now optimized for computer screens of any size, adapting to the device you’re using.
- All features pretty much function exactly the same way for all devices, but the look of the site adapts to make it easy to use and read at any size, from phone to tablet to desktop computer.
- Features for Waste Management Agencies
- Now any local government or waste management agency can have their very own version of Waste Nothing, which includes their information. An agency can have their version set up very quickly, with their name and logo, and even theme the website to fit in with their existing website.
- Merging and Reassigning Tips
- These are administrative features, but there’s a good reason to mention them here. Waste Nothing prefers primary information; that added and managed by someone who actually works at the organization in question.
- So if someone adds a tip about a charity which accepts donations of furniture, and then someone at that organization joins Waste Nothing, I can reassign them tip to them. This ensures accurate information, which is absolutely necessary for making Waste Nothing a useful tool.
- The person who originally added the tip still gets credit. So instead of listing the person who added a tip, tips are now “managed” by someone, and may have additional people listed as contributors. Similarly, when two people add information for what is really a single tip, I can now merge them together and both people still get credit as contributors.
- New Content
- While I have been largely focused on functionality, there are also some great new tips on Waste Nothing, including ones added by myself and by others. Some significant ones includes the tip for Goodwill in Ontario, as mentioned above, as well as a whole bunch of tips for outdoor composting.
- These new compost tips explain whether the item can be used as nitrogen- or carbon-rich material, as well as special instructions and warnings for various items. More compost information will be added in future, including vermicomposting, but there is now a solid foundation.
Whew! I hope you enjoy all the new features, and please let us know what you think by email or by commenting on this post.
Waste Nothing is really made useful by the content it has: all the great tips added by our users. If you have any good tips (and I know you do), share them on Waste Nothing so that everyone can benefit.
If you live outside of Toronto, then you’re probably wondering when Waste Nothing will be really useful for you. See information for local government and waste management agencies if you happen to work for one, or let us know if you wish Waste Nothing was available for your area.