Labs Olympics: Rex the Cleanosaur


We’ve got a problem here at Sunlight. A tiny kitchen and a large staff is a recipe for a disaster of immense magnitude. Each day a member of staff is assigned to kitchen duty; the list on the fridge has a schedule of who is responsible for keeping the dishwasher full and run as needed, wiping down the counters and making sure that dishes are put in the appropriate cabinets. Some staff members do a really great job, others are inconsiderate jerks who let the kitchen go to pot (I admit to being one of the inconsiderate jerks on occasion). We’re smart people, there has to be a better way to do this!

Rex the Cleanosaur is a better way.

For the 2011 Sunlight Labs Olympics, Team Awesome created Rex the Cleanosaur, a kitchen duty management application. Rex generates a schedule from current staff members and emails them with their assignments. If you receive an assignment for a day that you will be unavailable, just click the link provided in the assignment email to defer your duty. Another staff member will be automatically scheduled to take your day, but the next day they have kitchen duty, you’ll do theirs. Just to keep everything fair, the web app makes deferments publicly available. Rex will chase down and eat habitual deferrers!

We also developed a tablet based interface that will be hung in the kitchen to display the person that has the current kitchen duty. But what if that person is doing a terrible job? How awkward it would be to have to talk to them face-to-face to ask them to do a better job. No worries! The table interface has a “nudge” button that, when tapped, sends the person responsible for the kitchen an anonymous, passive aggressive email telling them to get their act together. If they are doing a great job, you can “throw ’em a bone” to thank them for their excellent work.

The nudges and bones are used to calculate rankings of the best and worst kitchen duty. If the person responsible for kitchen duty has a high nudge count, you know that they will probably need some extra reminders throughout the day. Managers could even use nudge/bone counts as a factor in determining yearly raises! Okay, not really, but you can still berate people with high nudge counts for their lack of consideration for their fellow employees.

So what’s next? We plan to add a way for the person with kitchen duty to rate the office as a whole on how well they held up their end of kitchen cleanliness (placing dirty dished in the sink rather than the dishwasher, etc). There are also some early plans for coupons, exemptions from kitchen duty that managers can give away as rewards for good work or to pay off employees that stumble upon secret evil plans their managers are working on.

Team Awesome consists of Chris Rogers, Drew Vogel, and Jeremy Carbaugh.