Left Useful: Community driven app to up-cycle items left behind in the streets of Amsterdam

Project length
Team size
1,5 FTE development team
October 4, 2022

Left Useful: Community driven app to up-cycle items left behind in the streets of Amsterdam

Meet Noodl user Bjørn Karmann, the creator of Left Useful; A map-based community app to find and share items that has been left on the street, that might be useful for others. We had a chat with Bjørn about his project and how his experience with Noodl has been doing the development.

“Noodl has empowered my confidence in building real apps for real life solutions.”
Bjørn Karmann, Design Director

Who are you, and what's your professional background?

My name is Bjørn, I am a Danish interaction designer based in Amsterdam. I am a communications bachelor from the Danish design school and a Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design alumni, working as Design Director.

What is your daily job?

I lead a small team of designers and creative technologists to produce large-scale cultural immersive experiences.

How much experience do you have with coding?

I am by no means a professional coder, but coding is a big part of my creative practice. Whether coding for hardware / Arduino prototypes, machine learning experiments, generative art, or small online spaces, code is no different than the moldable materials in my wood workshop.

What project are you working on in Noodl?

I am working on a mobile app called Left Useful, a community-driven platform to share and post items left behind as trash on the street. By simply taking a photo of the discarded item, it gets saved for 7 days on an open map where someone else may find it and pick it up to recycle / upcycle it.

What made you decide to build this specific project?

I live in Amsterdam, and here bulk trash, high-grade plywood, modern furniture, and hundreds of perfectly useful stuff are literally left on the street to be picked up by the government. While some people pick up the usefu stuff, most of the bulk gets trashed, burned, or dumped into a landfill. People only see what they pass by, on their urban commutes. But all I could see was wasted potential in recycling and a more sustainable way of living if only people could browse through all the treasures hidden in the side streets.

What made you look at no-code solutions for your project?

I love coding, but I am more of a visual person, and I had been looking forward to trying a node-based coding experience for a while. So when Noodl presented itself as a quick visual coding tool for web apps, I thought to try it out on my app idea.

What other tools or solutions were you looking at before choosing Noodl?

None, my only other option was to code from scratch.

What made you choose Noodl over other solutions out there?

Intrigued by the promise and visual interface.

How has building your project felt so far?

I learned the tool very fast and the feeling of having a fully working concept prototype in 4-5 days was simply amazing! I had so much fun designing the interface, feel and experience of the app, without wasting hours or days building it all from scratch. In fact, it's this speed and flexibility that I felt made the design progress more agile and streamlined. Where I previously would feel hesitant to discard a big part of a hard-coded app, Noodl was almost inviting me to try out things and not worry too much about breaking things.

Where do you feel Noodl has helped you the most?

I think Noodl has empowered confidence in building real apps for real life solutions. Since I am not a professional developer, I would properly not trust in my skills to deploy a tool into the world that could break any second. Now I feel I can focus on creative solutions.

What has been the hardest to achieve in Noodl?

The hardest to achieve was the last 20%. Noodl is great in the early sprints and general development, but regarding finishing up the last bugs and fixes, I was left with the documentation page which is still in its early days. But through the Noodl discord and their community, I found the very helpful staff at Noodl who were just as excited about my idea and progress as I was.

What resources have helped you the most to learn Noodl?

This might be due to my learning style, but I found the tool rather intuitive and just jumped right into connecting nodes left and right. With a few glimpses at the doc page I could get very far.

Which modules did you find useful for your project from our documentation site? Any wishes?

One of the key centerpieces of my concept was the map, and since I was an early adopter I could grant access to Noodl’s work-in-progress Mapbox module. This support and willingness to help were great. Though I can see the map being a key feature for many more people, expanding the capabilities for future users would be my wish.

Do you have any advice for those who are just beginning their Noodling journey?

Yes, I got a little carried away with building fast in the beginning. My exploration of nodes expanded quickly, leaving me with a big mess of noodles. I ended up remaking the whole app to split each section and separate functions into “components”. I wish I knew this earlier since it makes it much easier to navigate and scalable.