One of Cheng Xiaobo's favourite places to hang out in Hamilton is Jackson Square. It's always busy and he can meet his friends there.
The 18-year-old from Beijing is a student at Columbia College. He's only been in Hamilton for six months and is still exploring the city. That's where he need some help from fellow young Hamiltonians.
Xiaobo and his friends need look no further.
McMaster University partnered with Mohawk and Columbia colleges, the city of Hamilton and local business Weever Apps to develop MyHamilton, an app aimed to connect young people with the city.
“We're experiencing a community revolution we can see in real-time,” said Dr. Phil Wood, dean of students at McMaster. “Things like this app go a long way to connect students to the city.”
The MyHamilton app uses Twitter to crowd-source suggestions about where to go to eat, have a coffee or spend time outdoors with friends. Send a tweet with the hashtag #myhamilton and as long as the user is using geolocation, that tweet will get pinned to a map.
Hamiltonians looking for a spot to eat lunch could take a look at the map and find a recommended spot nearby.
Weever Apps' Steve McBride said he and his team looked into a number of different ways to crowd-source information, but decided on Twitter. This also makes the app unique.
“Nobody has done this before,” he said. “Taking tweets [for crowd-sourcing].”
McBride walked through the app for a small crowd at the launch Thursday.
Along with the map, the app also includes job and housing listings, discounts for local businesses and links to Twitter feeds and YouTube channels from the three schools.
“Part of Hamilton's charm is its students,” said Gisela Oliveira, employment service coordinator at McMaster. “The app encourages students to educate other students about Hamilton.”
Wood said there is no better way to stimulate the economy and bring students to places they wouldn't normally go, and the city agrees.
“There is a focus on the downtown,” said Mike Marini, marketing coordinator for Hamilton Economic Development. “We never had that connection between students and Hamilton.”
Xiaobo has his hand in the app, too. He won a contest to design the app's logo.
“A logo should be simple and clear,” he said., speaking to his inspiration for his design that looks like a QR code. That's one of those crazy looking black and white, maze-like patterns.
Xiaobo is looking forward to using the app himself. He'll be eager to find a good spot at a local restaurant based on advice from fellow Hamiltonians.