Launches rarely go this well. It’s been an amazing week with a lot to share.
Overall, This Is Our Stop has been well received. We’ve had lots of enthusiastic responses on Twitter, and an exciting amount of interest from both local and national press. Coverage started with Dan Misener’s Globe and Mail Technology article, looking at TIOS as a niche social network.
That led to a short but really great piece by Stephen Hui at the Georgia Straight, followed by Open File. Then CBC Radio’s Early Edition got in touch and we did an interview that aired Monday, as did a print and online interview with 24 Hours Vancouver. Most recently Bob at Vancouver Is Awesome wrote a post that put special focus on the stickers.
That exposure was a big boost for what happened next. Tylor put it best in a tweet: Watching people breath life into something we’ve been working so hard on, it’s great.
It really is. The people using the app seem to get it, and they seem into it. Despite having no identity requirements, only one comment out of over 300 had to be hidden, and that was for some pointless obscenity. A few local businesses have posted polite invitations to visit at stops near them, which is great when they are local to the stop.
Technically the node.js implementation has been running beautifully. We had started on Heroku to get our prototype running quickly, but moved off mid-development to make use of native WebSockets. Despite healthy traffic and posting in the past few days we’ve yet to see capacity go above 10% in use with just a 256MB cloud server from Rackspace. This has allowed us to keep operational costs very low for now, and for a good part of the foreseeable future.
As we’ve watched comments come in, we often follow them to the individual stop page and check them out in context. That practice has uncovered lots of little bugs that we’ve been able to fix in between visits from the same person, which is really fun to do. By simply following usage we’ve been able to find the edges of the system in ways that a full QA program might not, and that’s been a great validator for a lightweight, bastardized agile approach.
We’re aware of a few bugs and will get those fixed as we sort out the next best move, and after we keep our promises to clients so we can do other trivial things like pay rent and eat.
The nature of how news spreads meant that a lot of people had their first exposure to TIOS on a desktop browser. That’s too bad in a lot of ways, as we make no provisions for desktop or ipad form factors at this point. We talked about softly blocking desktop access, but didn’t get around to it before things took off, and we decided to leave it as is to see if anything bad happened.
It’s been alright, but it’s not optimal, so we’ll be making some changes that deter (but don’t block) access by desktop browsers, encouraging people to use the app in-situ, outside at bus stops, where it’s made to be used.
For now if you go to our rough desktop landing page at thisisourstop.com/desktop, you’ll see a live version of the map at the top of the page, which shows the locations of all posts since the service launched. Some neat patterns are emerging, reminiscent of Eric Fischer’s beautiful map of paths through Vancouver.
What was really unexpected was seeing the launch of mystop.to, a Toronto-focussed remake of This Is Our Stop’s core concepts in a PHP app. The speed that this was rolled out was probably the most startling, and that the project used the concepts and a bunch of markup, but not the underlying code. It’s all cool, just different from how open source projects usually go.
We haven’t had a chance to chat with the folks behind MyStop, but hope to soon. It’s clearly different, and the tenor diverged sharply when we noticed ads. We wish the best for the project, and hope the heart of mystop.to stays close to tapping into the communal aspect of bus stops.
When we launched we decided to step back and not get directly involved in postings too much. Instead we post when disposed to as part of our commutes, or when there are direct questions about TIOS that should be answered.
We’re especially avoiding much thinking about new features or integration with other services. Instead we want to give this new thing time to grow as it is, and then decide on some next steps. So while feedback has been great, the thing that will help right now is simply more use. If you want to help at all and you’re in Vancouver, just use it, and let us know how it’s going from time to time. And of course, tell your friends.
But if you want to help even more, there’s one big thing you can do: Stickers! We’re going to be putting more up in the coming weeks, but could use a hand. If you’re up for that, email us to coordinate picking up or getting stickers sent to you.
Best of TIOS
Finally, we had to pull out some posts that caught our eye and spurred conversation in the past week. Some are funny, some common sense, and some are really touching. We hope you like them, too.
I watched my neighbourhood grow up around this stop. It used to be trees and a four way stop, then a high school came, and then one summer, I watched the last of the trees turn into a starbucks. 55926
It drives me nuts all the people who smoke at the Coquitlam bus loop. There are many no smoking signs but no enforcement. –Greg Moore 53730
A really nice guy invited me to stand under his umbrella at this stop yesterday. made the rainy wait much nicer. 56477
If you just missed your bus, wander down to Macdonald and scope out the free stuff on the NW corner.. The free corner! 50392
Need more frequent service till eleven, some time after long wait, has to wait for another one. Because there is not enough space for all..:( 61590
Needs a garbage can! Litter all up on mah neighbahood 50746
Is there anywhere to walk to for lunch round here? I’m stuck in BCIT CARI just after EA on the right 51548
Watch out for curb puddle. You will get soaked by traffic hitting the puddle if you wait under the shelter in the rain 51362
This bus stop should leave @ 5:00 AM. Monday - Friday. 6:00 AM Saturdays & 7:00 AM on Sundays. Last bus should leave after midnight with the connections with the last Canada Line & SkyTrain. 59273
Hey the FedEx truck is in the bus stop space again! –TheTodd 59760
The bus shelter has a leak making one side of it useless and a large puddles forms in front of the stop causing passengers to have to stand way back 53294
I love my bus 57892
You get to stare ironically at the Mercedes dealership here 50327
Look to the person to your left. Now look to the person to your right. Now look at yourself. Two of those three people are hipsters. If you think it’s not you, then you’re a hipster. 52101
“I can’t see you but I know you’re there.” What movie is that from? Anybody? 58327
This street is so nice with Flowering trees and sunset in the background 58704
Spent so much of my teenage years waiting at this bus stop… 53193
My mornings are haunted by you!! 50309
Across the street from my apartment. If you’re waiting here, I can see you from my balcony. (Lookin’ good. How’s it goin’? How ya doin’?) 50883
Thank you, you beautiful people writing these things. You’ve done more for this app than we ever could alone, and we’ll do all we can to make a good conversation space for people who love transit.