Ample Labs was born out of a pilot project called HomeTO and a desire to contribute to our local community here in Toronto. Their work was originally inspired by social initiatives like San Francisco’s Link-SF as well as broad research showing that even when experiencing homelessness, most people rely heavily on smartphones to find vital information.
Since then, the team has grown to include a dedicated and diverse group of designers, developers, researchers, consultants, public servants, and community members—all united by a common commitment to using tech for social good.
80~90% of people experiencing homelessness are invisible, in transition or not often counted
90% own phone
70% own smartphone
Started with user research
One researcher was inclusive design grad from OCADU
People tend to turn to Google, not services that are established. People don't know where to look or what's available to them
What is available is not easy to use
They created personas to capture their users more generally
Is a chatbot something people would want to use?
Is it easy to use?
Use the chatbot as a means to track what people are looking for
Initially started by partnering with Ada, but it was too rigid a tool for their needs
Amazon (Lex, Lambda) is another solution they're currently exploring
Getting data from
211 Toronto Data
Corrections based on actual observations, etc.
Web scraper Tool
+ on ChalmersBot
Demo of ChalmersBot
It gets your location to show you what's nearby for meals, shelter, etc.
Gives you directions to get there on foot (using Google Maps)
Asks for feedback and suggestions of things it should suggest or offer
Have seen about 500 unique users so far
Implemented analytics to track usage
Question: Resources change, how do they address them other than checking manually?
They checked with the city for their process. The city checks twice a year to make sure everything they have listed is still valid
Maybe ChalmersBot can ask if the service accessed is still valid and the user can report themselves (crowdsourced)
How do they know when the city has updated? They don't know yet
Question: security and privacy? How do they handle the information? How is security being handled on either end?
Personal info: the only thing they can collect currently are their location and the thing they searched for
They have "eligibility" info that is collected like age, gender, sexual orientation, etc. and so they're working on that
They don't use the information
Security: not currently being worked on
Would be good to have a plain language terms and conditions to make it easier to use and understand
Hook ChalmersBot up through SMS?
Cost is restrictive
Question: how do you develop your personas? Do you see any limitations?
Distances you from the reality of people's lives, from individuals
They wanted personas to frame who users of the product would be in the beginning
Their lead researcher is suggesting to use mental models and move away from personas
Giving names to the personas could add more distance from the case, "historifies" it.
Questions from Ample
They work with Eloisa!
What are some best practices when it comes to Inclusive Design research?
How about design based on that research?
Does IDRC use personas?
We suggests using codesign instead, as a process
Personas have limitations
Use narratives, stories, real comments from real people instead
When you try to make a persona, you're summarizing, reducing a group of people that may not represent what they want in their life
Going through entire stories can take time, but it's okay, it's real, just publish all of them. If not everyone goes through all the stories, it's okay
In our practice, we would be losing richness and diversity of experience
Are there projects where there is a need for personas instead of individual narratives?
Might have been helpful in a case where it was a very technical project for requirements building. Even then, it's almost a dozen personas.
Personas can be a useful shorthand, but they abstract away specificity
Once you shear off the things that don't fit in a persona, you lose that extra information and requirements
Useful when you do have a clear set of functional requirements that need to be satisfied
Putting names and titles on them may not be the most useful
Instead of personas, maybe create vignettes or user stories and test the application within that specific situation
(missed a question about NLP and chatbot?)
Giving people the time to speak, if they speak slowly, etc
Going into a group, let them be the ones to make you feel comfortable rather than the other way around
When Ample was going into the shelters, were there people from the shelters to facilitate the sessions?
Involve those groups right from the beginning. Build trust, they're part of your team, go back to them, get them to test your product, etc.
A codesigner's role will change from session to session
In certain locations, they don't want anyone from the outside to be there, so you would share materials and requirements with a person in the group and they will conduct the session themselves (e.g. teachers in a classroom)
When people have gone through trauma, how can you have them share that experience without forcing them to relive it?
Make sure you collaborate with people who are part of the organization
Getting emotional doesn't necessarily mean you've done anything wrong
You let that person lead, if they want to. You may not get everything you want, but you'll get something. Don't lead their discussion
Defer to psychologists, therapists, etc. who have more experience with this. If a person opens something up, could make sure they close it after, practice mindfulness, try not to leave people in the state they got to during the session