Real-Time MTA Subway Information in JSON Format

The MTA has been making real-time subway information available to developers for a couple years. However, one must contend with the GTFS Realtime format, which isn’t as easy as digesting an API. This is especially true when one only wants the status at one or two stations.

Enter MTA Sanitizer, Jon Thornton’s JSON proxy for real time MTA subway information. This looks like a very promising project for those looking to get at the real-time information. It needs to run on a server somewhere, but everybody has one of those.

I really wish this was available when I was trying to include real-time subway information in my Good Morning Display.

Is it Time to Revisit Personal Unit Tests?

Back in 2007, there was some talk about personal unit tests. The idea was to apply unit testing, a tenant of Test Driven Development, to some of the mundane, yet important daily tasks of one’s life. Done properly, one could see what their pass rate was, and address problem areas.

Personal Unit Test SpreadsheetThis sounded like a great idea. I created a spreadsheet complete with conditional formatting to track small tasks like “exercise”, “healthy lunch” and “practice guitar”. While it was useful to see how I was doing, the overhead of tracking all of these little tasks was very high. If it could only be automated, like unit tests in TDD, it would be so much better.

Now, 7 years later, our devices are tracking all sorts of things about us. Perhaps most of these unit tests could be automated by querying the repositories of personal data that are being created. Data that can’t be obtained automatically, could come from something like Reporter. I’ve seen several gorgeous visualizations of this data–Aprilzero immediately comes to mind, but I don’t think they are all that actionable throughout the day. This is where unit tests could really shine, maybe.

What a Blog Does, 2014 Edition

Dave Winer posted about the modern role of personal blogs:

The one place, for people who care enough to have a place, has to be independent of tech industry business models.

I couldn’t agree more. We should have the option to have control of what we create; blogs and personal websites give us that control.

There are a number of tools out there that allow one to use other services such as Facebook and Twitter to publish some or all of their content with links back to the source (IFTT immediately comes to mind). After all, it’s a lot easier to publish things on Facebook than it is to convince someone that doesn’t already use RSS regularly to start using it.

One of the things that seems to be missing is an easy way for someone to comment on these postings within their tool of choice and have those comments be available everywhere. For example, if I cross post to Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter, any comments left on Facebook are not going to be make it back to my blog, let alone Tumblr or Twitter.

Update 2014-08-24: Chris Roos pointed at in a reply to my comment on Dave’s post. It makes the connection between social networks and a blog. So, “likes” and other mentions that would normally stay on the network are posted back to the original source.

MailChimp on Research and Process

Issue 29 of the MailChimp UX Newsletter has some good advice on sharing usability test findings with the wider team. Laurissa Wolfram-Hvass recommends sharing an entire usability test video with time-stamped notes. This lets people get right to the parts of the video they might care about most, but still allows for exploration and additional context as needed.