Wow. It’s been nine days since @whensmybus was released and the feedback has by and large been positive. It’s not all been plain sailing – the odd bug or two made it past my initial testing, and a database update I tried inadvertently corrupted it all. My thanks go to @LicenceToGil, @randallmurrow and @christiane who were all unlucky enough to manage to break it. As a result, I’ve ironed out some of the bugs, and even put in some unit testing to make sure new deployments don’t explode. I now feel this is A Proper Software Project and not a plaything.
Bugfixes are all very well, but… by and far away the most requested feature was to allow people to get bus times without needing a GPS fix, to allow use on Twitter via the web, desktop app or not-so-smartphone. And although using GPS is easier, and cool and proof-of-concepty, it’s plain to see that making access to the app as wide as possible is what makes it really useful. So, from now on you can check the time of a London bus by specifying the location name in the Tweet, such as:
@whensmybus 55 from Clerkenwell
This will try and find the nearest bus stop in Clerkenwell for your bus – in this case, the stops on Clerkenwell Road, which are probably what you’d want). The more precise the location given, the better; place names are OK, street names are better. It works great on postcodes and TfL’s SMS bus stop codes as well.
The geocoding that makes this possible is thanks to the Yahoo! PlaceFinder API, so my thanks goes to them for making a service free for low-volume use. (Aside: you may ask why not use Google Maps? Because Google Maps’s API terms only allow it to be used to generate a map, not for other geo applications like this).
So, play away, and let me know what you think. Of course, it may not always work – geocoding is tricky and not foolproof; if it doesn’t, please let me know in the comments here, or just ping me at @qwghlm on Twitter.