Public objects

To follow up on a thought I Twittered t’other day, picking up on a comment of Dennis Crowley‘s: most public objects – and certainly all municipal objects – should offer APIs. (A concrete example: BART‘s provisions.)

Furthermore, specifically with regard to public infrastructures like transit systems, I believe that this should be a matter of explicit government policy.

What’s a public object? A sidewalk. A building facade. A parking meter. Any discrete object in the common spatial domain, intended for the use and enjoyment of the general public. Any artifact located in or bounding upon public rights-of-way. Any discrete object which is de facto shared by and accessible to the public, regardless of its ownership or original intention. How’s that for starters?

15 responses to “Public objects”

  1. Matt says :

    To paraphrase J. Jacobs… API’s on the street?

    See also Paul Hammond’s minimuni
    http://www.paulhammond.org/2008/12/minimuni/

  2. Paul Hammond says :

    Minimuni doesn’t use an API – it scrapes the data, which more than doubled the development time.

    As far as I can tell SF Muni don’t provide data publicly, although I assume they have a private data feed available to make things like Google Transit Directions possible.

    This disparity is a little frustrating…

  3. Michal Migurski says :

    Paul, 511.org does have a data source for schedules. It’s not an API – more of a giant datablob you have to sign a release to see. I’ll e-mail more details.

  4. Stefan Constantinescu says :

    The API versus the spitting out smarter data debate is one I can type out a whole essay on, but seeing as it’s almost 1 in the morning I just want to throw this out there:

    If everything was meant to be played with then the connections between the data would have to be controlled by someone smarter than the system, the user. If everything had said something about what it did, then algorithmically one can take all data from all sources and come to a new conclusion that people sitting in front of a development environment would have never otherwise seen.

  5. Joe Hughes says :

    If you’re interested in public transit data sharing and APIs, I definitely recommend checking out the Transit Developers list:
    http://groups.google.com/group/transit-developers

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