In the days leading up to Lent, some folks dance the samba in glittery costumes, some indulge on fattening pastries, and some count down the minutes until schools of breaded cod and haddock rise from the oily depths of sizzling deep fryers. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we love our Lenten fish fry so much that a few clever souls have created our City’s very own Lenten Fish Fry Map to help residents catch their weekly fried fish fix.
This map is the brain child of Hollen Barmer who thought of the idea for the map back in 2012, after enjoying Pittsburgh’s fish fries and the opportunities for visiting the region’s many unique neighborhoods and communities. Hollen told me that “Making a map of them brought the locations to life (and helped me a lot because I have a terrible sense of direction).” Ever the creative and resourceful genius, Hollen enlisted the help of Code for Pittsburgh to help bring this map to life.
While many Pittsburgh residents are familiar with this Lenten Fish Fry map, few are familiar with the technology behind it or how CivicMapper has supported and hosted this map since its inception. Our COO, Christian Gass, has been a longtime supporter of Code for Pittsburgh, is a founding member of Maptime PGH, and has provided technical assistance and improvements to the Lenten Fish Fry Map since its inception. Christian also serves as the map’s official Data Steward via the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, who mirrors a copy of the data used on the map.
One of the qualities that makes the Pittsburgh Lenten Fish Fry Map so special are the filtering options that allow you to select the perfect fish fry purveyor to suit your tastes. Do you want to know which locations have homemade pierogies (my personal favorite)? There’s a filter for that! Do you need to know which places have takeout or are handicap accessible? You can find out! Thanks to the filtering tool, it’s never been easier to find the right fish fry to suit your needs.
There are lots of great fish fry maps out there, and many are done by news channels or publications (check out Buffalo and St. Louis), but no other cities are using Code for Pittsburgh process for their fish fry maps. We'd like to change that!
Hollen stated that "In the beginning, the Pittsburgh Lenten Fish Fry Map was a humble Google map that required a lot of manual work every Lent. It didn’t have any filters, so users had to struggle to find what they were looking for. Christian and Code for Pittsburgh made the map really efficient, elegant, and easy to use." Today the map is powered by an open "Fish Fry API", allowing for the programmatic adding and updating of fish fry information instead of relying on tedious manual input. Additionally, Hollen shared that she was fielding a lot of questions via the map’s Facebook page, so she used the most common questions as the basis for the filters: lunch, alcohol, accessibility, takeout, and of course, homemade pierogies (a.k.a., user-driven design!). The team also made sure to indicate whether the venue is a church, fire hall, or other establishment, and made those places symbolized as map icons as well as in the text.
Last but not least, it’s very important to note that the Pittsburgh Lenten Fish Fry Map uses open source software (e.g., Leaflet, Bootstrap, Flask, etc.), empowering curious mappers anywhere in the world with free access to the tools they need to create their own versions of the map. This is meaningful because it presents a great opportunity for others to use the Code for Pittsburgh mapping approach. As Hollen stated perfectly during our conversation, “What makes our map so special is that it reflects community at every step. It brings together volunteers to gather and update fish fry information, it connects users with the features they want in a fish fry, and the data and map are out there for anyone to adapt.”
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