The Idea Factory of Schenectady, NY

When asked where he gets his ideas, Harlan Ellison has the following reply:

When some jamook asks me this one (thereby revealing him/herself to be a person who has about as much imaginative muscle as a head of lettuce), I always smile prettily and answer, "Schenectady."

And when the jamook looks at me quizzically, and scratches head with hairy hand, I add: "Oh, sure. There's a swell Idea Service in Schenectady; and every week I send 'em twenty-five bucks; and every week they send me a fresh six-pack of ideas."

I figure if you're going to steal, steal from the best.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wow. Been a while since I've posted here; all the interesting stuff's been going on at my other blog.

I've been trying to drive less lately, so for me, that means walking, biking, and using the VTA. However, getting somewhere on the VTA is only really useful if I already know where my target is and need to find the closest stop. If I instead need to find, say, a hardware store near a station, that involves a manual search by address, which is a pain in the ass; it'd be nice to have an interface that lets me pick, say, "hardware store near (any VTA stop)" or "hardware store near (this set of VTA stops)".

I own a copy of Google Maps Hacks (thank you, free books at O'Reilly Emerging Tech!), though I haven't read it yet. Still, given that the entire interface is JavaScript, it seems like it'd be pretty trivial to write a .js include or a stylesheet containing all the VTA station addresses as variables, then create an interface which lets you select either "all VTA stops" or a certain station from a dropdown, with an optional "...and N stops in either direction" parameter. I'm not sure whether Google Maps will let you select multiple start locations (though I'd hope they would have included the ability to OR several start locations together, since the results will certainly OR multiple end locations), but if not, I suppose the results could just be chained -- perhaps a radio button on the results page that lets you pick which station to show results for.

An obvious design goal is to make this extensible, so that you could drop in an include file for BART stops in SF, T stops in Boston and so on and so forth. Getting that to work from the initial search string shouldn't be too hard if it's possible to piggyback off Google's parser -- let Google find the city, then check for an appropriate include file, use it if there is one, kick back an error if not.

I might make it to SuperHappyDevHouse tonight; if so, this is what I'll be working on.

(Now, if only there were a good way to tell Google "and I'll be walking or biking from my start location, so quit giving me results that involve freeways...")

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