Halifax app wants your smiles

Launched Nov. 29, Apps4Halifax contestant Smilie.st aims to harness the city’s happy moments

Smilie.st sorts smiles into three categories: people, places and things. (Photo: Claire Ciel Zimmerman)

As Apps4Halifax kicks off public voting for its app contest this weekend, one entrant wants to get people smiling.

Smilie.st is a web app developed by tech consulting firm T4G. Its goal is to collect “smiles” from the people of Halifax and share them publicly to foster an appreciation for the city.

“We think Halifax is a fantastic city and we really wanted to create a platform that would allow people to express the feel-good factor and the friendly nature that people have here,” says senior digital strategist Jenny Hastings-James, who came up with the idea for Smilie.st.

Hastings-James moved to Halifax from the United Kingdom three years ago Nov. 29 – the day Smilie.st launched. She says she has developed a deep appreciation for the city and the opportunities it has to offer, which she says partially inspired Smilie.st.

To share smiles through the web app, people will take photos of things that make them smile around Halifax Regional Municipality and share them on Instagram with the hashtag #hfxsmiles. A team will approve each image and then post it to Smilie.st, which is both a mobile-compatible website and an Android app. Users can also post to Smilie.st’s Facebook or Twitter pages.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of content people choose to share,” Hastings-James says. “A smile for you might be chatting or having a good time with your friends. For me it might be something I discovered at one of the local stores here in Halifax.”

For each smile shared, T4G will donate 50 cents to the IWK Health Centre. Its goal to is reach 10,000 smiles, or $5,000, over the next six weeks. Hastings-James says she wants Smilie.st to be a catalyst for a “movement of positivity” and she wants everyone to be a part of it.

The Apps4Halifax organizers released data sets related to the Halifax Regional Municipality, such as crime areas, transit routes, maps of parks and trails, electoral district boundaries and solid waste collection areas. Entrants must develop an app using one or more data set with an aim to improve the city in some way.

Smilie.st will provide a map that will plot smiles around the city, so you can see what parts of Halifax bring the most smiles to people’s faces. For marketing intern Patrick Henderson, this is one of the most exciting components of the app.

Even before the app launched, people began tagging their photos with #hfxsmiles. (Photo: Claire Ciel Zimmerman)

“I think the approach we are taking to this is pretty different — pretty radical  — in terms of how we are using the data,” he says. “This could be such a huge movement. It could change the whole country. It could change the whole world.”

Henderson is a third-year marketing student at Dalhousie University doing a co-op semester with T4G. He sees Smilie.st as an opportunity to foster school spirit among university students.

“If there are a lot of smiles going on around Dal, I would take pride in that,” he says. “I think it’s an amazing opportunity for students to showcase their school and student life to the Halifax community.”

Ceilidh Milligan, a student at Dalhousie University and native Haligonian, is intrigued by Smilie.st because it brings the infinite scope of social media a little closer to home. She has been using Instagram for a few months and often finds herself uninterested with its content.

“I got Instagram so I could keep up with my friends and see what’s going on with them. But 90 per cent of the time it’s not related to me,” she says. “Because (Smilie.st) is specific to Halifax, you’re not going to be getting a lot of things that you don’t understand or can’t connect with.”

Milligan says she thinks Smilie.st could have great potential for students, whether as a distraction in times of stress or as a way to connect to unfamiliar people and a new city. But even for people who are familiar with Halifax, she says she likes the app’s potential for drawing people into the Halifax culture.

However, Milligan says she could see Smilie.st users focusing on smiles and glossing over neighbourhood issues as a result. “The world can always use more positivity, but at the same time you can’t just cover it up with positive social media.”

T4G is working the not-so-smiley stuff, too, with another app in Apps4Halifax called Halifix. The app will allow people to upload pictures of things that needs to be fixed in the city, which will be plotted on a map. The community can then vote on the issues, and once an issue garners a certain number of votes it will trigger a 311 ticket. Users can track the ticket process through the app.

Smilie.st launched Friday and public voting for Apps4Halifax runs from Dec. 2 to Jan. 6. Keep an eye out - Smilie.st will be setting up “living walls” around the city that display users’ smiles in real time.