For years the Blue Ocean Institute has published a wallet guide filled with information about which fish and other seafood are okay to eat and which ones have significant health or environmental concerns. While wallet cards are convenient, they have a few shortcomings. They aren’t easily shareable – it’s tough to give your friend a copy of your wallet card. And because they are so small, it’s difficult to fit a lot of information.
The Blue Ocean Institute partnered with Mobile Commons and used mData, their mobile application builder, to build FishPhone, a consumer shoppers’ guide that makes the entire Blue Ocean database available using just a text message. The first challenge was to make it as easy as possible for Blue Ocean to get their data from their database into a format suitable for text message. They uploaded a simple spreadsheet with two columns to Mobile Commons: the fish name in the first and the health & environmental impact in the second. Mobile Commons’ mData program automatically takes care of the rest, including wiring up the short code & keywords and formatting all the messages to 160 characters. In addition to text message, Mobile Commons made all the data accessible via the web too. By using a Flash widget that is easy to embed on any blog or other page, web surfers can see what’s popular, try their own searches, and send instructions on how to use FishPhone directly to their phone.
FishPhone has been a resounding success. It has spread to tens of thousands of people using the service and interacting with the organization. Additionally, it has earned articles in Parade Magazine, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, not to mention numerous blog posts.