Archive for the ‘api’ Category

it’s pretty clear i didn’t follow up my initial blogging enthusiasm. there’s a number of reasons for it, none of which are particularly interesting.

today i twittered that i am “frustrated that the future isn’t here yet… feeling it’s partly my own fault.” [1]. this was prompted by an article in the guardian describing the future of london’s bus services [2]. i also watched the video introduction to nokia’s conceptual design of ‘morph’ – a fascinating device which would interact with the environment around it in ways unimaginable using devices available to buy today [3].

so how to we get from where we are now via london bus to morph? not like this:

“The priority is to get all the buses equipped, then we can start thinking about what we want to do with the real-time passenger information.”

knowing what products to build on the data so people can have the best possible experience is non trivial and i don’t expect TFL (on their own) to get it right. however, knowing what to do with the data is a complete no brainer: set it free and let people help you create the right products.

the first thing london bus plan to do with the data is to have a spoken announcement every time the bus is approaching a stop. i hope they reconsider. why go with something so intrusive from the outset? why not start by putting the next stop on a scrolling LCD or TV screen only? why not allow people to decide the best way for them to access the data themselves?

personally i’d love an application that allows you to use a mobile device to select the stop you want to get off the bus, then it interrupts the song i’m listening to or beeps my mobile phone whenever i’m one stop away from the destination. i could also share with a friend that i’m meeting the unique identifier for the bus that i’m on so they track the bus and know when i’ll arrive with them. that would be beautiful. for me. will TFL think of me and build that application? no. but by keeping the data to themselves they prevent me from building it for myself and sharing it with others.

a closed system distances a company from their own customers – who are the people that know best what direction and products they should be focusing on.

openness creates the potential to interact with services and our environment how we want to – which improves services and makes me a happier customer.


i’m excited. there’s this thing. and i think it’s cool. and you all have to think it’s cool too… deal?

in brief: multimap twitterbot and our video presentation from hackday (an iphone spoof)

ok. as a little side project that’s been going on, we’ve created the multimap twitterbot as announced on the multimap blog today. i honestly think it’s really useful. you can get directions (what we call a ‘route summary’ so it should tell you the main roads you have to take), find and get directions to your nearest *everything* and also it’s a handy way to get links to the multimap site. there’s instructions on the user guide page, let me know if you have any difficulty with it and i’ll help you out.

i’m delighted that it’s now out in the wild and if even one person finds it useful or cool i’ll be more than happy :)

this all ties in with hackday (see my photos)… it seems the done thing to blog about what you hacked so here goes…

richard and i spent our time integrating the twitterbot with the newly announced yahoo fireeagle. basically we used fireeagle to store a user’s location meaning they could set their location once then just do messages like ‘to closest wikipedia’ rather than ‘to closest wikipedia from sw1′ or whatever. even though it’s still very much beta, fireeagle looks fantastic and i’m really excited about where it’s headed (i was lucky enough to sneak a chat with the extremely approachable mor naaman and tom coates about it at the 24 hours of flickr event).

anyway, i absolutely loved the video presentation we made about it (a parody of the apple iphone ads), thanks to RK’s fabulous editing skillz we were able to put together something i don’t think we would have bettered in a week’s work… take a look at the final product:

so to finish off, please try the twitterbot…!

breaking news! the guys at twitter blogged about our bot! yippeee!

i just wanted to do a quick round up of some interesting stuff that’s been happening at multimap lately, although hopefully the announcements will keep coming…

for anyone with a short attention span here are the key things:


you may have noticed that the site has been completely redesigned. it’s a very big deal for the company and certainly something we’re all very happy to get out there and are looking forward to developing further in future. i’d just to highlight a couple of features that probably are not easily spotted that i really love…

  • right clicking on the map to add a favourite
  • hold shift while clicking and dragging on the map to draw a box of where you want to zoom to
  • hold control and move your mouse or whatever to fly around like superman
  • for londoners, check out the draggable and zoomable tube map by clicking on the icon beside ‘tube stations’ in the useful information palette. then click on a station to select it and click the ‘show on map’ button on the bottom right. equally go from normal map to tube map by selecting ‘tube stations’, clicking on a tube marker and using the ‘show on tube map’ button. very cool.
  • as andy hume pointed out, you can select from different map types available by hovering over the ‘maps’ button and choosing from the list that appears (only available where we have multiple map types, london would be a good example with three different types available at certain zoom levels)

so ok. great you say. more fancy maps, just what i wanted… ah, but wait. there’s *even more fancy maps*. you may have heard of a very interesting project called open street map. for those that haven’t, think wikipedia for maps. got it? no? think harder. ok good. anyway, john mckerrell (a multimap developer and osm fanatic) has recently posted a wonderful little bookmarklet to display open street map data on the multimap site. just drag the little piece of magic onto your toolbar, go to and click on it. you’ll get two extra map types for displaying open street map data. maptastic! (sorry, i’ll try to stop making up words, well, words like that anyway)

i bet you’re so impressed now that you’re just dying for some more map action. well, you’re in luck. you can make your own! the final and possibly most interesting thing is that multimap have opened up the mapping, geocoding and routing modules of the api to be used for free by developers (that’s you). richard keen has posted an excellent introduction to the open api which I’m glad to say highlights the work mapstraction have done to ease the stress of choosing between geo apis and also the fact that we’re making use of freethepostcode data. so not only can you make a great mashup, but you can make your great mashup even better by contributing postcodes to this project. i’m delighted multimap are encouraging and supporting these open data projects.

i suppose all that’s left to say is keep an eye on and where interesting things are sure to happen…

disclosure: i work for multimap as a software developer but this is, of course, my own meaningless personal opinion.


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