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Harper Reed: "The power is not the mashup. It's the data."

Bus Location Map My brother Dan O'Neil is a data nut, which of course is a key job requirement for the co-founder of EveryBlock. (Dan also is creator of CTA Alerts and CTA Tweets.) So Dan found a kindred spirit in Harper Reed, and wrote at his Derivative Works site about how Harper parsed the data being slung about via the CTA Bus Tracker:

When most people go to the CTA Bus Tracker Web site and click on Estimated Arrival Times or the Bus Location Map, they see a way to find out when their next bus might get to the stop near them. Another nifty map mashup they can use to plot their trips daily.

When Harper Reed saw the same Web site last year, he saw every bus, everywhere, forevermore. And he wanted that data. "The power is not the mashup. It's the data. The data is the answer," says Harper.

Est Arrival Times So he set out to separate the data from the mashup. He used Firebug, the nifty Firefox add-on, to monitor that network traffic (the communication that goes between the browser window and the server) that was driving the data to the page. This way, he found the URLs of the "endpoints" -- a fancy word for URLs with special codes inside them -- that control the entire Bus Tracker system.

Read the rest of this fascinating post.

All hail Dan and Harper.

Comments

All very interesting, but what do the Norwegians think? :)

My 13-year-old nephew, who I lovingly call the Evil Genius, has been writing widgets for about a year now. I have been encouraging him to explore doing something with Bus Tracker, but he, living in the almost transitless suburbs, thinks I'm insane to suggest that people care about this stuff. I've sent him the link to encourage him to think again. He is depressed that he didn't develop iFart first, so this is going to take a major change in thinking.

Is there a way to download the bus tracker as an application to my mobile device?

"All very interesting, but what do the Norwegians think? :)"

I was wondering whether this is the Norwegian that is skewing the CTA statistics.

And, apparently, the author of the article didn't know that the "Irving Park Road Express" was not the "49X."

Is there an iPhone app that takes this info and puts it in a nice package?

There is a link to this site on "Read the Rest" link pointing here:

http://cta.growinglogic.com/

This looks nice on my iPhone, but is there an app? Whoever created this, it looks really nice, but doesn't seem as quick as the text based official version and going back in the browser doesn't seem to work either.

As I posted on your brother's site, I hope developers avoid creating platform-specific apps and focus on web apps. If someone's going to develop these kinds of tools, it seems counterproductive to lock so many people out.

"As I posted on your brother's site, I hope developers avoid creating platform-specific apps and focus on web apps. If someone's going to develop these kinds of tools, it seems counterproductive to lock so many people out."

While I agree with you in theory, depending on their motivation for creating the app, developers might choose to do so. Especially if they want to make money.

The mistake on the Irving Park bus number might be a way of bringing home the point that not everyone knows the numbers off the top of their head.

Just a heads up, one explanation for the Norwegians is that opera mini has their own proxy server (to alter the pages to optimize it for phones and such)

Opera is based in Norway, so it makes sense

You're a bit late, Sargas. We have been discussing that for a while in the thread two down.

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