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A brief history of @twube

April 19, 2009

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Just finished this project (Travel Twitter list), so thought I’d move swiftly onto something new – @twube.

The other day I thought – is the London Underground, or Transport for London, on Twitter? The short answer is no, despite their impressive website with text updates and email alerts. No RSS feeds either.

But in another sense, TfL is on Twitter, as several programmers have found ways to get the underground’s information (delays, works, updates etc) onto Twitter themselves. I looked at what they’d done – see their websites futher down this post – but thought I’d give it a go myself. (note – it’s not 100% there yet, and sometimes freezes, but bear with me…)

What is @twube?
@twube
is a Twitter account that each morning and evening gives you an update of each underground tube line. It has been created by myself, and it is not affiliated with Transport for London. But it takes their email alert, which has a round-up of lines affected, and lets you read it online (using a combination of Mailbucket and Twitterfeed.)

How does it work?
@twube
works by using TfL’s email alert system. I’ve set up an email account that receives a tube update from TfL before you leave for work (6-7am-ish), and an update just before you head home (5-6pm-ish). It covers the entire length of each tube line, so hopefully no matter where you live/work, you’ll get an update that’s relevant. It only works Monday to Friday.

You can of course get this by email yourself, but I thought with so many people using Twitter as a replacement for email nowadays, why not set this up. And as Twitter sends out RSS feeds, you can also subsribe to @twube in your RSS readers.

The link on the Twitter page is to an RSS feed, and there you can see if any of your lines have any problems. Or you can subscribe to the RSS feed directly here: http://mailbucket.org/twube.xml

Why have I done this?
First of all, hopefully this will actually help people. The tube is the bane of a Londoner’s life. And it was fun trying to piece it all together.

It’s also bit of a personal experiment – a means to delve more into the world of mash-ups, RSS feeds and email alerts. It’s also a look into the technical aspects of social media and travel. I’m interesed to see how far this will reach, and who will subscribe to it. It may also be of help to small companies – a quick demonstration of how to set up similar travel services themselves etc.

I also had a really interesting chat with Garri Rayner, who runs holiday website Holidaypad, about his new Holidaycrunch venture (or follow him here: @holidaycrunch). Holidaycrunch is a simple idea: get people to put their travel deals on Twitter. It cleverly taps into the current climate, the credit crunch, and taps into social media. Quick and easy. So this was also an inspiration…

Other applications?
Increasingly, news websites (and travel websites) are experimenting with combining different software/technologies (mash-ups), to grab the reader’s attention. Currently Google maps is being intergrated a lot, and I’m sure Streetview will follow soon. Already Visit Britain is experimenting with it.

Alternatives
I’d obviously been beaten to setting up a system like this, but some of the other Twitter accounts I found had either stopped working, or were bombarding followers with too many updates. Here are a few of the ones I found (good and bad), but in most cases they are more professionally put together than my attempt…

@London_Tube

@tubinator

@railalerts

The next step – Eurostar, or even airlines?

And if this experiment does work, and is helpful, please leave a comment at the end of this post.

If you want to ReTweet this post, click here

Further reading & inspirational blogs
http://blogs.opml.org/tommorris/2007/02/22#twitterTubeTracker

http://tomtaylor.co.uk/talks/delighting-with-data/ – who is http://scraplab.net

http://russelldavies.typepad.com

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