I’ve been working with this excellent organization called DIYcity. It’s a grassroots movement (dare I say?) which is chartered to design and build web-based solutions to help alleviate some of the problems that plague the cities in which we live (more in this in another post, I promise). It was started by a guy named John Geraci, who is also responsible for co-founding Outside.in, as well as other fascinating projects involving the intersection of urban living and technology.
Despite my current gig as a designer, I’ve had an opportunity with DIYcity to reach way back to my computer science B.S. and get my hands dirty with some Java programming, which has been a nice change.
DIYcity’s first project, released a couple of weeks back, was called DIYtraffic. It is a traffic monitoring system that takes input from Yahoo!’s traffic API, and pumps it out over a Twitter feed (see traffic_chicago’s feed for an example). The cool thing about the system, is that it’s set up to be super-extensible, so the same framework can be appropriated for any city, any traffic feed and any output source (twitter, sms, facebook,etc.) assuming you’re up for writing a bit of code Working on this project, I got a chance to play with the Twitter API (an experience which was at times frustrating, at times awe-inspiring), and also put into practice whichever best practices of object-oriented software programming I remembered (or could learn about with a quick Google search).
Just today, DIYcity has released our second app called SickCity – real time disease tracking. You can check out the live, running version of it up at sickcity.org. Basically, we’re tracking Twitter for the mention of illness terms (such as “feeling ill”, “flu”, “head cold”, “food poisoning”) located within a particular city. Kind of like Google Flu Trends, but more local (city instead of state scale), more extensible (tracking multiple conditions), and more organic (someone may tweet about having a cold but not do a Google Search on it – but of course the opposite holds true as well . Hey, it’s a start. This app was built primarily by Paul Watson, with design input / support from John, Clint McMahon and myself.
Twitter’s incredible. Kind of like a Google News for people.