We work on projects that advance the greater good. Here you’ll find projects where software can accelerate a trend (Walk Score®), make public data more transparent (Better Bills), or tell a story (the Predatory Lending Association). Stay tuned for more.
August 2012 - Present
What? Password Savvy shows how to make harder-to-hack passwords that you can remember. It takes a passphrase--a random pair of words--and randomly mixes in capital letters, numbers, and symbols to create strong, memorable passwords automatically.
Why? People frequently use weak passwords--passwords that are short and all lowercase letters with no caps, numbers, or symbols--either because they don't know how to create strong passwords or because they try to make their passwords easier to remember. Even so, people still frequently forget passwords! Password Savvy shows you how to create stronger passwords that you can still remember.
December 2009 - Present
What? City-Go-Round helps you find innovative public transit applications (apps) in your city. Type in your address and City-Go-Round shows public transit, biking, walking, and driving apps near you.
City-Go-Round also tracks over 700 transit agencies and shows which agencies do and don't provide open data to software developers.
Why? Innovative software apps are one of the cheapest ways to make riding public transit more convenient—but innovative apps need open data. Apps provide the carrot for agencies to open their data. The wall of shame on City-Go-Round that lists agencies with no open data is the stick.
June 2007 - Present
What? Walk Score makes it easy for apartment renters and homebuyers to find neighborhoods where they can drive less and live more.
We hope real estate listings will eventually read: 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1,000 sq feet, Walk Score 87.
Why? Talking to urban planners in our community, we realized a "walkable" neighborhood was shorthand for a sustainable neighborhood. We were inspired by the Sightline Institute’s maps on walkability and their excellent description of the benefits of walking: health, environment, social capital, local business, community.
And then… In the first month after Walk Score's July 2007 launch, over 1 million addresses were searched. Walk Score has been featured in 100+ newspaper and radio segments including the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and NPR and in over 1,000 blog entries. Walk Score was named one of the 50 ways that Seattle is changing the world by Seattle Magazine and one of the top 10 best planning sites by Planetizen. We are currently working on Walk Score 2.0.
What? ObamaCTO.org asked people to submit and vote on the priorities for our country's first Chief Technology Officer.
Why? We wanted to provide an example for the Obama Transition Team of the power of crowdsourcing to help set government priorities. In the first few days of launch, tens of thousands of votes were cast.
And then… ObamaCTO.org, along with a few other sites, inspired the Obama Transition Team to launch a similar feature on Change.gov to solicit feedback on the Administration's top priorities. We hope the priorities on ObamaCTO are a useful starting point for our first CTO/CIO.
What? CountMore.org helps students find out whether their vote counts more in their school state or home state, and allows them to register to vote and request an absentee ballot.
Why? Students have the option of voting in their home state or school state. Many students don't realize they have this option—and if they do, many worry about the complicated and sometimes restrictive rules around registering to vote. We built CountMore.org to clarify that students have the choice to vote in their home state or school state and to help them figure out where their vote has the most impact.
And then… CountMore.org was one of the top Rock the Vote widget registration partners and we registered hundreds of hard-to-reach swing state voters residing in non-swing states.
Feb. 2007 - Present
What? Better Bills started as a proposal to improve Seattle Public Utilities bills to make them more readable and to show people how their energy usage compared to other people's energy usage.
We are currently working on a mashup of electricity usage data and property assessor's data to answer the question, "How does my electricity usage compare to my neighbors?"
Why? Electricity bills are an untapped opportunity to provide people with personalized feedback on their consumption. If I'm using 30 kilowatt hours per day, is that good or bad? How does it compare to other people with similar houses? Should I install those new double-paned windows or not?
And then… We emailed the design proposal at www.betterbills.org to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels who forwarded it to the head of Seattle City Light. We are currently working with Seattle City Light to acquire electricity usage data for further analysis.
May 2007 - Present
What? Kathy's Climate Kit is a convenient collection of tools and tips to help you reduce your climate impact. By grouping the items and information you need in one handy package, it makes it easy and fun to take energy-saving steps.
Why? In 2006 Kathy Washienko put together a "global warming gift box" for her friends and family as a gift to them and to our planet. The response was overwhelmingly positive so Front Seat made 40 prototypes of a Kathy's Climate Kit branded gift box for the 2007 holidays. We love the idea of using the social contract of a gift to encourage people to take action. E.G. "Kathy gave me these new light bulbs so I better screw them in!"
And then… The response to the 40 Climate Kit prototypes was so positive that Front Seat helped Kathy spin out a new company to sell Climate Kits. You can find her on the web at www.kathysclimatekits.com.
May 2007 - Dec. 2007
What? A satirical industry association of payday lenders called the Predatory Lending Association. The website has a military base finder to help lenders target soldiers, a "poor finder" to help lenders exploit the working poor, and a comparison of predatory lending and indentured servitude.
The site is a parody of the real industry association of payday lenders at www.cfsa.net.
Why? When we heard payday lenders were charging soldiers in Washington 391% APR to borrow money we were steamed. But isn't this just the market working properly since these are high risk loans? Payday lending is solution pollution—there is a societal cost to people living on the fringe of financial ruin that payday lenders pass on to the rest of us. Payday lending is an example of a market failure due to these externalities and the asymmetry of information between the lenders and customers. Your eyes have probably glazed over by now—which is why we chose to use satire to demonstrate that free market rhetoric doesn't justify turning people's short-term financial problems into long-term financial problems.
And then… The Predatory Lending Association site launched in Nov. 2007 and was covered in the New York Times blog, Salon magazine, and a number of other newspaper and radio segments. The real predatory lending association commented on one of our blog entries which was hilarious. The discussion forum also had a number of awesome posts.
Best of all, we received a letter of commendation from the Navy for the website. The Department of Defense rated payday loans one of the top 10 negative factors affecting our military readiness. We are interested in giving the PLA site to another group that would continue to make updates. Contact us.
Open Source Accuracy Project
Feb. 2007 - Dec. 2007
What? In 2007 we hired a team of editors to improve the accuracy and apply a more global perspective to Wikipedia articles related to the environment and the so-called "War on Terror."
Why? Wikipedia is the #1 search result for most non-shopping nouns and one of the top 10 most visited sites in the world. We were able to make significant changes that improved the accuracy and added missing facts to articles that collectively receive hundreds of millions of visitors per month.
And then… Our Wikipedia team is currently working on an academic curriculum to teach students about media literacy and Wikipedia. They are also forming an organization to promote digital citizen engagement with seed funding from the Ford Foundation.
Disclaimer: This project is independently run by Front Seat and is not an official partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization which operates Wikipedia.
What? Neutral Fuel is a prototype for a carbon neutral gas station where people can buy carbon offsets at the pump.
Why? With a carbon tax or cap and trade system in our near future, we wanted to provide a simple explanation of carbon offsets and expose people to carbon offsets at the pump.
And then… We decided not to move forward with this project even though opening a gas station would have been fun.
Where's The Truth?
Feb. 2007 - May 2007
What? We negotiated with Paramount for 100 copies of An Inconvenient Truth. We gave the DVDs away with instructions to pass them onto a friend—building a real world social network to distribute the film.
Why? We believe people who see An Inconvenient Truth are more likely to take action to fight climate change. We were interested in lowering the average cost per view, as a way to increase viewership.
And then… We asked each person who saw the DVD to send us an email. Due to the low number of emails we received, we do not consider this project a success. Perhaps Matt gave out too many of the DVDs at the Sasquatch Music Festival to people who promptly lost them or left them in the glove compartments of their Volkswagen Vanagons. But hey, at least Al won the Nobel Prize.
What? Real MPG was a prototype website to allow you to track your car's miles per gallon and compare your Real MPG to the EPA MPG ratings.
Why? We were interested in increasing the overall fuel efficiency of vehicles by creating more accurate MPG ratings. Also, by making people more aware of their MPG we could help them calculate the amount of money they would save/spend by switching to a more fuel efficient vehicle.
And then… We decided not to move forward with this project after finding out the EPA was revising their MPG estimates to make them more accurate. Also, the EPA has a similar website called Your MPG. Later, we found a startup called My Mile Marker building a similar site.