OpenPlans throws out the orange carpet and grandly welcomes Julia West to Civic Works. Julia’s past experience as an entrepreneur, web designer and social do-gooder puts her in the enviable position to further OpenPlans’ work of improving civic engagement, making information accessible and just plain making the world a better place.
Julia took some time to tell us where she came from, how she got here and where she plans to go:
You’ve done projects that involve cats
Yes. Calcucat.com. I saw there was an opening in the market for a web-based calculator that prominently features a cat. Calcucat is actually a cat I used to live with. Her name is Fat Cat.
That wasn’t stock photography?
No, that’s an actual photograph of a cat I know and love. she’s very obese. Calcucat has made thousands of calcucations. She makes sounds, so she provides the company of a virtual cat while also helping you with complex math operations.
Besides Calcucat, what were you doing professionally prior to OppenPlans?
Directly prior to OpenPlans, I was freelancing for OpenPlans. Prior to that I was working on a video-based dating website called InLust, but it never launched. Prior to that, I was the primary developer for ifwerantheworld.com. In the distant past I worked for Dana Farber Cancer Institute making some internal apps. And way back in the day I received funding from YCombinator to do a startup called JumpChat, which was similar to twitter but back in the pre-twitter days. Before that I was in college and I did usability research with eye tracking.
What was ifwerantheworld?
ifwerantheworld is a site founded by Cindy Gallop that intends to capture people at their moment of inspiration to do good by hooking them up with cool, world-changing projects. For example if you’re inspired to get involved with community gardens, you can come to ifwerantheworld and find projects and people with similar goals and get involved by pledging to do some small action for them. The idea is if enough people do small things, they can make big changes.
Do u have a particular penchant for civic and participation projects?
I definitely want to do good. There are a lot of problems that can be solved by bringing information to people and connecting people. Since I have the ability to help with that i think it’s my duty to.
What projects are you working on and have worked on with OpenPlans?
I’m currently working with the Civic Works. Over the summer, I worked on the DOT bikeshare app and now i’m working on extrapolating some of the functionality of that app into a social layer. We want to give people the power to engage with local government agencies by building location aware apps. For example, people could request a speed bump in their neighborhood or report the location of an unplowed street during a snow storm.
Do you have any nicknames?
Some people call me Julie. It’s easier to say.
Thats not a nickname, that would be like if I said my nickname is Andrew…
Julie is a nickname for Julia! A few people call me “Jules”. My middle name is Mae, so some people call me Mae West when they’re feeling silly.
What else do you hope to accomplish here at OpenPlans?
I just want to build some cool open source software that is a joy to use and that will change the world for better.
One interesting fact about yourself..
My favorite color is white because it includes all colors. White light contains all colors and thus when you split it in a prism you see a rainbow.