Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How do you want the information?

With freezing levels and snow falling in the passes we are doing our best to prepare ourselves and the Web site for the winter season. We have made changes which should allow the site to handle more visitors and withstand the heavier usage that always comes when the weather goes south. What else can we do? This is the question I ask myself.

We offer RSS feeds as a way to keep up on news and the latest pass reports without having to visit the Web site to see what's new. We also have a Twitter account which allows us to publish quick updates to our followers which can be instantly sent to a mobile phone if you choose. We have been kicking around the idea of publishing the Seattle Area Incidents to Twitter - is there value in this for you?

We want to be able to provide you with the information you are looking for in the most efficient way possible so you can make informed decisions. Does this mean custom Google Gadgets for your iGoogle page? Is it an application you can add to your Facebook account? Facebook and other Social networking Web sites can be powerful forms of communication.

So I ask you, when you come to our site what are you looking for? Are there other ways we can provide you with that information?

Let me know.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, Gadgets please! But not just for Google, Windows also. The incident page would be very helpful. The traffic map is already published by others.

Anonymous said...

facebook group is good too!

Anonymous said...

I would be concerned about adding too many different places where someone at WSDOT would have to log in to update the information (especially during a weather emergency). The beauty of RSS feeds is that they are automatically created from your blog entries. (Plus the person looking for the information doesn't have to sign up for yet another web site!)

Jeremy Bertrand said...

We have considered Facebook and already have a "page" created, however our primary audience is the 8-5 commuter (for Seattle traffic info anyways). We don't want to be in a position where we encourage users to be on Facebook during their work hours to check traffic info. Evenings and weekends might be another story however. We will research a group vs. a page, to see if those updates make it to members "walls", thanks for that thought.

Jeremy Bertrand said...

We totally agree with you about too many places, funding and staffing is a bit slim with people driving less, our ideal would be to post it in one place and be able to have wide distribution of the information. The real challenge we face is providing the right balance of information to help you make a decision about when to travel without overwhelming you to the point where you want to opt out.

We have found that the understanding and use of RSS is isn't as wide as we had thought. There are many who don't even know what it is or how to use it yet. You have a good point however, maybe we just do a traffic blog. Appreciate the thought.

Jeremy Bertrand said...

On another side note about Facebook, the folks at TrafficGauge have created a Seattle traffic flowmap that you can add as an application on your page. It doesn't give you the entire picture, such as planned construction or maintenance closures but it does give you a great view of current conditions, without having to go to our site.

Anonymous said...

I would appreciate the traffic cam and weather updates be realtime in the winter.

I live out in Montesano, commute to Olympia, and check the Rock Candy Mountain Cam and Weather before I leave my house in the morning.

I leave the house at 5:30am and having data that's an hour or two old is better than nothing, but I wish it was realtime so I had a better idea of the surface temperature to determine if it was icy or not.

iPhone User said...

How about expanding the coverage of your 'Small Screen Traffic Info' page to include the whole state, at least the major highways? And if it's not too much to ask, how about adding links to selected camera images to that mobile page? Thanks...

Jeremy Bertrand said...

Thanks Iphone user. We have already started doing that. If you go to wsdot.wa.gov/small/ you will see that we have recently posted links to pages with traffic alerts for the major routes in the state. We also have camera images available for the Puget sound area if you go to wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/seattle/small/

Thanks for the feedback, we definitely plan on expanding.

Paul said...

I like the idea of traffic updates in twitter, particularly if it can be handled entirely by the tools so there's still only one place for someone to update.

It'd be nice to have a special emergency-only RSS feed. Today, I only have one RSS feed I watch at work...the weather alerts feed for the Seattle area.

However, when I think about the long term, what I really want is for you and many other states to supply the raw data in more mechanical formats (rss, xml, etc.), but in a consistent way. What if 20+ states published their traffic data as a large set of pairs for (begin-segment-latitude-longitude, end-segment-latitude-longitude, congestion-rating)? Then lots of Google/Windows gadgets, Firefox extensions, advertising-based websites, and other things would naturally crop up.

rand'm said...

Twitter or RSS, either can be widget/gadgeted to appear on your desktop. I use an existing app for twitter on my Mac called Chirp. I found it on this app list: http://twitter.pbwiki.com/Apps
Twitter can be linked to phone for instant update. It also forces one to keep it short & simple. There is also tinyurl.com where you can make your links short like this one to a desktop RSS feeder list: http://tinyurl.com/58pbfd. Great that you are asking joe public for input. Harness the 'wisdom of the crowds', eh?

rand'm said...

I posted the wrong RSS feeder source. Correct one here: http://blogspace.com/rss/readers

rand'm said...

Stuck on an idea: I originally bookmarked your webcam map site on my browser years ago and would check it before commuting home. Regarding feeding incidents thru Twitter, you might want to divide into subfeeds by route (i.e. an I-5 North feed). I would not wish to filter out incidents on non-related routes. I am going to kick this over to our UW grad site MCDM for ideas.

Wayne Dyck said...

rand'm, at the moment we are sending all Seattle blocking incidents through our main Twitter account (http://twitter.com/wsdot)

At the moment we are going to keep it all together to offer the bigger picture of what is going on. Also it allows us to send out one message rather than having to retweet it to multiple accounts.

We are thinking ahead to times when and if the site goes down due to volume we will still be able to provide updates to followers in one central location.

Thanks for the feedback.

mishy79 said...

I would love some type of "My Trip" application that can link to your mobile phone, desktop widget and facebook site. Often I check the drive time and it is not correct, would be great to be able to customize information for your specific commute.

Wayne Dyck said...

Mishy79,

When you mention the drive times, do you mean the Seattle area travel times?

We also have a mobile version of that page online with the routes broken down by direction depending on which way you are traveling.

I like the idea of the "My Trip" application. We have talked about adding that kind of personalization to the site in the past.

rand'm said...

Re: Simplifying updates, understand one feed makes sense. However, I just started following WSDOT on Twitter and will unfollow because too many feeds. I bet there is a channel app someone has made for Twitter...Or maybe simply a 'button' so I can switch WSDOT twitter feed on & off. I think during traffic interest I would have only WSDOT on, but rest of time have only FRIENDS on. Interesting challenge. I really like the MyTrip idea and computing drive times from point A to point B.
Perhaps one of your challenges will be dissemination of tools existence.

Wayne Dyck said...

Rand'm,

Understandable. If you are not traveling or are not already in your car, the updates will not serve a lot of purpose.

The tweets should only be the intial incident and not the updates, however, I notice that some duplicates still sneak through.

I am also kicking around the idea of a Twitter bot that provides the traveltimes via a direct message.

Richard Finegold said...

Any likelihood of a WebFLOW maps expansion? The site's Seattle area maps have I-5 extending to US-2 and new SR-202 segments (although Webflow.sta doesn't seem to cover them yet).
(It looks like there's also improved coverage in Tacoma and web maps for more).

Eric Jain said...

Speaking of wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/seattle/small/: For some reason this page doesn't appear to work too well on an iPhone. The text appears tiny in the upper left corner, and double-tapping to zoom in doesn't work. You can still pinch to zoom, but this is inconvenient, and there may be a simple fix for this.