Stubblog


How to tell when your site is dead?
January 29, 2009, 1:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m coming to the conclusion that (at least) one of my side projects is dead, http://www.whos-playing.com is a site I wrote to help people manage 5 a side football teams, it lets you pick teams and rate your team mates to help keep the teams fair.

The idea was to have the site free while people beta tested it, then charge people to use it once I was happy that it worked Ok, but no-one wants to use it when it’s free, so I doubt people would want to pay for it.

It’s been live for about 6 months and has gained less than 100 users users, none of them active. I’ve received 2 emails regarding problems on the site, both of which were fixed in quick order, after that, neither user carried on using the site.

I tried engaging the team organisers whenever I fixed major bugs, or improved the interface in such a way that might make it usable for them, but I rarely got even a log in from them.

I’ve tried gaining users by joining various 5-a-side groups on Facebook, but it’s hard not to look spammy when you’re the most active user on there. Some people signed up, but never got any further.

One of the users works for one of the major 5-a-side football pitch providers in the UK, but his experience of the site didn’t get any further than trying to invite a few players to join his team. I’ve even emailed the FA, but heard nothing back.

So now it’s beginning to look like the site is a dud, no active users even when the site is free, even when some of the users who signed up are your friends, it doesn’t appeal to people who hang out on groups aimed at the subject it covers.

So it looks like whos-playing.com is in injury time, all the substitutes have been played, the referee has checked his watch and unless something happens soon I might have to blow the final whistle.

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South Yorkshire Transport website to get an overhaul
January 20, 2009, 11:21 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve had a bit to say about the state of travel information online, and regular readers will know what I think the solution is. So when I heard that a company in the North West had been awarded a contract to overhaul SYPTE’s online information website I was quite excited, maybe now we’d get a decent service that worked on a wider range of devices, with better maps and, dare I say it, an API we can use.

That excitement started to fade as soon as I clicked on a link to Rippleffect’s website, it’s flash. If, like me, you work in an environment where you have no rights to install software on your windows machine you’re immediatly stuck. Flash has it’s place, but it’s not front and center, it’s not the first thing your customers should see (or not, in my case)

Because I have other reasons to be here, I made the effort to find the link to the non-flash version and looked to see if there was any more info on the project. There wasn’t any specific info on the SYPTE project, but they have done work for Merseyrail. I’ve had a look at the hourney planner and I immediatly saw the URL http://www.merseyrail.org/noflash.php?mode=not_installed, but it seems to work Ok on a non-flash enabled browser (Chrome in my case, see above). However when I look at the site with a Flash enabled browser … I can’t see what it uses Flash for, certainly not the journey planner, so the user experience is needlessly downgraded before I even start.

I had high hopes when I saw that a smaller, local agency rather than a large behemoth had won the work, but now I’m not so hopeful that what we’ll end up with will be any better than what’s there at the moment, but prove me wrong Rippleffect, please prove me wrong!!



Making things better.
January 4, 2009, 1:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

The Next Bus is the name of my latest little web app, and this is a little post to explain why I wrote it.

Ever since I started my new job, I’ve had to start learning a whole new bunch of bus times. My last job was easy, I just used to wander across the road to the interchange and wait for the 29, the timetable told me when the next one was available.

Now however I have to catch the bus from West Bar, and the timetable just says “up to every X minutes”, but no indication of when that actually is.

There is however a service provided by Travel South Yorkshire, but good luck trying to view that on your mobile phone or PDA, even if your device can render the seemingly infinite recursion of frames, the table that presents the timetable is missing some vital tags, the one that starts a new row for example, the HTML just gives the tags to end a row. More by good luck than good judgement, most desktop browsers manage to render this.

So last night I decided to do something about it. I’ve written a web app that takes the bad markup and cleans it up, rendering your stop information as valid XHTML 1.0 Strict.

Go to http://thenextbus.appspot.com with your mobile device and enter your stop number, if you’re not stood next to the bus stop right now, you can find the stop number by searching http://tsy.acislive.com/. Once you have your stop on screen, simply save it as a bookmark to use next time.