I just wanted to let the Cincinnati people know that I have successfully (knock on wood) set up an instance of the DIYtraffic bot for Cincinnati. It can be found at:
Like all DIYtraffic bots it's getting it's traffic data from Yahoo. Also, it will respond to driect messages with traffic info on specific streets (if there is any). I've also plugged it into twittbot.com so it will re-tweet @replies it gets.
If you're on twitter, check it out. So far it hasn't tweeted anything about traffic, because I don't think there are any accidents or anything in our area.
I'll keep you posted on how it goes if anything of interest happens with this.
I read today's Times-Picayune and was struck be David Marcello's column
Seeking real reform in city procurement:
Headlines scream about who's ahead in the mayor-council battle over awarding city contracts: "Council fails to override mayor's veto!" Lost in the shuffle is the important issue that underlies these conflicts: How can we reform the way City Hall selects architects, engineers, lawyers and other professional services contractors?
For the hundredth time I was frustrated and wanted to do something about our dysfunctional city government. A few minutes later, during my Saturday morning blog reading, I ran across a fellow soul, Timothy M. O'Brien writing for the O'Reilly blog on Government Transparency is Our Responsibility: Apps for America, who is frustrated on a grander scale:
Regardless of your political ideas, if you are watching the slow machinery of our Federal government switch gears and are wondering how to involve yourself, you don't need to send in a resume to some government official or even ask anyone's permission. Governance, and government generally, is not the protected domain of elected or appointed officials, it is the product of individual initiative transformed into collective desire.
O'Brien has some ideas about how to put this manifesto into action, and in particular calls our attention to Sunlight Labs Apps for America contest:
Sunlight Labs is one of several organizations dedicated to the idea of great transparency in government, and they are sponsoring a competition for people to use several open source APIs and tools to create novel applications and ways to slice and dice gov't data. You can enter today, you don't have to ask anyone's permission, and all you need to do is join a Google Group and register for an API key.
A few minutes later, I ran across a post about DIYcity, and it suddenly became clear that I could finally do something. The result is DIY New Orleans, and a new DIY city topical group on Government Transparency. Consider this a first step towards "Apps for NOLA".
If you look at the wiki page where people add links to the instances of DIYtraffic that they've set up for their own area, you will see that the app is now running in Chicago, Fairfax VA, Portland OR, Rockville MD, San Francisco, and Washington DC.
Not bad, but can we go further? How many local instances of DIYtraffic can we get up and running today?
Instructions for installation are here: http://diycity.org/wiki/index.php?title=DIYtraffic_-_Instructions_for_In... and installation is a pretty quick and painless affair. Dan Greenblatt, who spearheaded the development effort, has also offered to configure our version of the app to run additional cities if anyone wants, so if you want a DIYtraffic in your town but don't have a server to put it on, write to him at dan dot greenblatt at gmail dot com and he'll do it for you.
If you do launch a DIYtraffic, be sure to 1) point back to this page explaining it, 2) tell people what it is in the bio area and 3) tweet about it to spread the word.
BTW, DIYtraffic works just fine for cities outside of the U.S., if you give it an RSS feed for local traffic updates. The feed we're currently using, from Yahoo, is only for the U.S. unfortunately (why is that??).
I was contacted by someone from London asking if there were plans to set up an instance of DIYtraffic there. I replied we'd love to see it there, if someone can produce a reliable rss feed for live traffic data for the city.
Does anyone know of such a feed for London?
Or for all of UK?
Hey all -
You may have seen on the main thread that the DIYtraffic Bot is up and running in beta and we've got it tracking traffic right here in Chicago!
There are a couple ways you can interact with it:
1) follow traffic_chicago on Twitter to receive real-time updates (to your mobile phone, if you wish)
2) send a reply to @traffic_chicago to post your own traffic info if you see an accident or jam (no texting and driving, 'natch)
3) send the account a direct message with the name of a street to find out if there have been any recent traffic reports containing that street name (note, if you follow traffic_chicago, it will take about 30m for it to follow you back so you can send DMs to it).
Let me know if you have any problems / questions / comments or suggestions!
So, the team who pulled together DIYtraffic did a great job of it, and I think it's an awesome beta app. What should be the next steps for making it better, more useful and easier to adopt?
What should DIYtraffic 1.0 look like?
I'm excited to announce that DIYcity's first app, DIYtraffic, is now live and running for 3 cities, and the source code is available for download by anyone who wants to set it up for other cities.
The app was built to be easily configurable for any city in the U.S (or any city in the world, provided there's an RSS feed for traffic updates to be found).
This beta version of the app, when configured, does the following:
- posts all traffic incidents for the city in question to a Twitter feed, allowing users to receive these traffic alerts as SMS messages to their phone if they want
- accepts queries from followers on specific streets, and returns traffic info for just that street
- accepts user-generated traffic alerts for the city and reposts those to the feed.
There are lots of other useful things it could do as well, but we figured this was a good start.
DIYtraffic emerged out of a discussion held on the site about using Twitter to alert people to traffic problems. As the first app created here, it's a proof of concept for the idea of DIYcity as a place where conversation about applications can turn into actual applications, able to be used by anyone. As exciting as it is to see DIYtraffic launch, it is doubly so to see that proof of concept happen.
Anyway, check out the full explanation, with running examples, links to the source code, and instructions on how to use it here: http://diycity.org/diytraffic-realtime-traffic-alerts
And follow the DIYtraffic feed in your town!
Kudos to Dan Greenblatt for pushing this through and making it happen.
For those of you not subscribed to the Discussions group, DIYcity Challenge #4 is now online there. http://diycity.org/challenge/diycity-challenge-4-bikes
DIYcity Challenge #4: Create an app that promotes bike riding in the city somehow: makes it easier to get from point A to point B, makes it less stressful, simpler, whatever.
Ianb has an idea for a "Cooperative Bike Share" that uses just a few combination locks and text messaging to create a bike share program for local communities. (People at DIYcity Portland are considering the possibility of testing the concept in their city).
It gets me to thinking - what other ways could you use web technologies to make riding a bike around the city easier? How could you use maps, apis, user input, whatever, to support bike riding as opposed to driving?
This is a pretty broad-open question, and submissions/ideas may be widely varied. Ianb's idea is inspiring, but don't let it guide your thinking too much for your answer.
If you have an actual app to submit in response, submit it here and it will be reposted as its own post. If you want to contribute a thought, use the reply link below.
Next week we'll move on to Challenges that aren't so totally transportation-centered...
Apologies for the radio silence over the past week, we've been immersed in server upgrades and putting finishing touches on DIYtraffic, which is ready to launch as soon as it has a home. We will now resume with our regularly scheduled programming.
While we were gone, DIY Cincinnati had some interesting posts on DIY things they could do for their city. And they're planning a meetup, too. Check it out!