Migrating toilets

by Celina Bledowska, on 31 May 2022

Developer at The Guardian and open source aficionado, Oliver Barnwell, has invested a fair amount of time in a unique project, the Great British Toilet Map. Billed as ‘the largest database of publicly accessible toilets’ in the UK - no one need ever get caught short again. Looking for an all important public lavatory anywhere is easy with this tool.

Early beginnings

Oliver started coding at a young age, joining a Neontribe led centre run by Rupert Redington & Harry Harrold as part of the national hackathon: Young Rewired State. For every summer, until he was 18, Oliver attended this and other events, and the experience enabled him to work at the company during his gap year. It was during this time that he started working on Neontribe’s Toilet Map as an open source project, with Rupert and design researcher, the Royal College’s, Gail Ramster, who was collecting data for toilet locations. Exploring the search behaviour on the Toilet Map Explorer was Oliver’s one of many projects during this gap year.

Migrating a project

After graduation and having started a new job at Investec and before moving on to The Guardian,where he has worked on the newspaper’s identity platform migration. Oliver continues to contribute to the Great British Public Toilet Map This open source project is dedicated to helping people find toilets across the UK. In any city, in any part of the UK, simply click on the map and you’ll find your much needed facility.

Having retained his passion for the toilet mapping project, Oliver is working on the next stage. In 2021 the project started its migration from a Single Page Application (SPA) React app to using Next.js and TypeScript. The core aim for the migration was to improve the user experience and to improve the onboarding process for any community contributors. As the app was an SPA, those on the move can find it on their mobile browser.

During June the migration will be released to all users and changes will be rolled back if necessary.

Looking for a loo

Mapping the UK’s numerous public toilets performs a valuable role for social historians, an important project for developers and an invaluable function for those of us that desperately need a loo when out and about

Neon Tribe is an integral part of the project, as Oliver says, “ it’s been ten years in the making and I’ve only played a very small part, Rupert is the instigator along with Gail.”

The Great British Toilet Map may shortly become a global map. Rupert has confirmed: "I think it is fine to say that we're laying the foundations for use in other countries and cultures."

Catch up with Oliver’s talk on 16 June or contribute to the project.

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