I've got a way to go with Abel yet; I can't do FADCs at all, but the earlier stuff looks useful.
The title sequence to a Saturday morning kids' cartoon series. Of Watchmen. It is not, shall we say, particularly reverent. Probably better for it.
Tom's been poking Heroku, and now, so have I. It's proper brilliant: a rackup file, a tiny Sinatra app, and the Heroku gem, and you're building webapps in ten minutes. It's crazy and brilliant, and exactly the kind of thing of which we need more of.
"It’s new fun in some Russian cities, to jump from the bridge with the rope in a big group, when there is no water under the bridge but raw firm ice, also they use to jump at that same moment when the train is going thru the bridge". The pictures explain it pretty well.
Making bridges talk
28 February 2008
I’ve written before about how wonderful Twitter can be as a messaging bus for physical objects. The idea of overhearing machines talking about what they’re doing is, to my mind, quite delightful.
So when I found an untapped data source for such an object, I thought it was worth having a poke. Half an hour of scripting later and Tower Bridge was on Twitter. It tells you when it’s opening and closing, what vessel is passing through, and which way that vessel is going. The times are determined by taking the scheduled time for the “lift” and subtracting five minutes for the opening, and adding five minutes for closing – the official site suggests that, at rush hour, lifts should take five minutes to open and close tops.
That’s it, really; it’s just a simple case of scraping some data and outputting it. It’s not a hugely frequent event, so won’t disturb you very much; if anything, it’s just a little insight into the heartbeat of the Thames.
As a note on its design: it’s very important to me that the bridge should talk in the first person. Whilst I’m just processing publicly available data on its behalf, Twitter is a public medium for individuals; I felt it only right that if I was going to make an object blog, the object should express something of a personality, even if it’s wrapped up in an inanimate object describing itself as “I”.
And, if you want proof that it works… how about this:
I’d set the server up yesterday; suddenly, this morning, it twittered into life, and we charged out of the office around the corner to the bridge, where the MV Dixie Queen was getting into position for its lift. As it went through, I took a picture. That was a very satisfying moment.
(Thanks to Tom for helping me bash a crontab and a few other server-shaped things into shape. If you’re interested in the technology, which is really not very relevant, it’s about thirty lines of Ruby that glues together a combination of: wget, Hpricot, John Nunemaker’s Twitter gem, and cron.)
Updated June 22nd 2011 with the new URL for the bot, following this whole series of events.