Haverhill crowdsources pothole fight with low-tech email and a little bribery

The city of Haverhill is hoping to enlist citizens in a crowdsourcing effort to find and fill emerging spring potholes, but the city is opting for an old-fashioned email address and gift cards rather than a fancy app.

The Eagle-Tribune is reporting that Mayor James Fiorentini is encouraging citizens to email (pothole@cityofhaverhill.com) or call in (978-374-2364) pothole reports, with three participants receiving a $25 gift certificate for their troubles.

The real prize, however, is a smoother ride around town for everyone.

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Potholes, perhaps due to their ubiquity, are a common hypothetical target for civic innovators preaching the power of the Internet to fix everyday problems.

The City of Boston has worked on its own app, Street Bump, in conjunction with Connected Bits and IDEO, and start-ups like CitySource and SeeClickFix have tried to build to build businesses by helping connect citizen problems with the officials who want to keep those citizens happy.

But I love seeing cities skip out on fancy tech to opt for what’s referred to in the start-up world as a Minimal Viable Product: The least amount needed to test out an idea. And while this Haverhill contest might just be a one-off seasonal experiment, it would be great if they would follow up, let others know what worked and what didn’t, and kept it going for next year.

What innovative crowdsourcing have you seen, whether with smartphone apps or just low-tech tools, in your town? And more importantly, what would you like to see?

Let me know at Michael.Morisy@Boston.com, and follow me on Twitter at@Morisy.