It started when I was a graduand. Needing something to fill the gaps between dark nights of the soul and job applications, I did what anyone would do and made something with open data.
Great Britain publishes some impressively comprehensive public transport data. It’s not perfect – the TransXChange format is the last word in steaming architectural astronautery – but it’s vastly better than nothing.1 So I made what I called bustimes.org.uk2, although for some months there were no actual times – an oversight for which I deservedly received short shrift.
https://t.co/57xy4EThUM is a profound act of trolling. Immense detail on many bus services, street view, maps… but no times.— David H 🐚 Rezzed 🔜 A Maze (@nachimir) 6 December 2015
Gradually, emails calling me a worthless, time-wasting prick encouraged me to develop new features, and I must say abusive email–driven development is as fine a methodology as any.
People kept finding and using the thing. In a time of brittle single-page web apps (like the one whose address is printed on every bus stop in the land), building an old-fashioned progressively enhanced website – everything having its own cool URL, accessible to search engine crawlers and mobile telephones – is a revolutionary act. And horrible programmatic advertising3 can actually be lucrative – well, it’s much more money than I deserve.
At some point, I added a contact form. And oh, in came the emails: I was no longer a worthless, time-wasting prick, but apparently I was the person to ask about lost property and to answer complaints about bus services. I’ve since added some words explaining that I’m not, and contact details for most bus operating companies, but nobody reads anything on the web.
And so here I am. Almost three years later, it’s a fine specimen of what insufferable jerks call a “lifestyle business”, a “passive income”, ugh, although I inexplicably maintain a time-zombie full-time corporate stooge job as well. March was the most successful month ever, as a cold wave disrupted transport and I found myself complicit in “disaster capitalism”.
What next? Development will continue. The entire history of everything is needlessly preseved on GitHub (here’s a link to the first commits).
Here’s a good explanation of why it matters, and how impressive it is. ↩
I bought bustimes.org – which used to house a similar cool independent website – at the end of last year, from some sort of domain name squatter. I had international expansion on my greedy mind. There was a sobering dip in traffic when I moved from .org.uk to .org – it’s a modern parable – but things have picked back up now. ↩
I fear that a lot of the money comes from advertising contemptible adware, “potentially unwanted programs”. Rome2rio piously blocked MyTransitGuide – an eminent PUP, bizarrely published by a company with Chelsea Clinton on its board – but there must be dozens of different ones, and Google’s tools for blocking them are inadequate. So I spinelessly take the money. ↩