A popular Sydney Buses app died when Sydney Transit cut off the data feed after just a few weeks, citing lack of server capacity. Developer Ben Hosken is disappointed, but he's more concerned that developers aren't making enough use of the government data on offer.
Hosken, who heads up Flink Labs, created the app for the apps4nsw 2011 competition in February. Despite the app's web page scoring 200,000 page views over the three weeks in which it was active, he knew that the live bus location data would only be available for the duration of the competition — and he understands that serving out data reliably isn't as easy as you might first think.
On Patch Monday this week, Hosken tells the story of the Sydney Buses app, and explains why he's concerned that the various government apps competitions and hackfests might come to nothing.
"If government organisations publish this data — at a cost, because someone's got to do something, and it's not just this particular set but any of these sets that are made available — if they publish them and people don't create applications that are then useful for others with them, a year down the track, two years down the track, the government in all its forms looks back and goes, 'What happened with this initiative where we published this data?' and someone says, 'Oh, there was a spike of interest around a hack day and someone won ten grand and an iPad, and then nothing'," he said.
We also hear from two developers with some thoughts on what's involved in making use of government data. As you'll hear, it's not just about the technology, but also bureaucracy and politics.
Benno Rice is a freelance systems architect based in Melbourne, and Adrian Chadd is from the Perth-based consultancy Xenion. Both have some interesting suggestions.
There's also my usual look at some of last week's news headlines.
To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.
Running time: 38 minutes, 14 seconds