Category Archives: Social Activism with Mobile Tech


The past few weeks I’ve been working on a one-touch web app for finding the nearest NYC Subway station – My hope was to create a simple, super-lightweight experience for anyone wanting to find their way to the nearest relative subway while minimizing the time spent on their phone. uses the trusty and deep Google Maps API along with HTML5 Geolocation. I’m also using the tried and true PHP/SQL combination (technologies which I have limited experience with) for storing and accessing MTA Subway data. This was also my first project using JQuery Mobile, which looks and feels slick, although a bit too “controlling” for my tastes. Rounding out the technical fun is some use of HTML5 local storage to save preferences.

An interesting suggestion made to me by my professor would be to turn ‘Nearest ____’ into a platform that anyone could use to create an instant mobile utility just by plugging in their data in the form of an SQL database. If I can clean up my code to the point where it is portable and modular, this is definitely the direction I’d like to go.

Playing with SMS…

I’ve always liked the idea of hooking SMS into a webapp. If it weren’t for the cost of SMS charged by unscrupulous carriers, I think we’d see a lot more SMS-related apps using shortcodes generated by services like TextMarks and Twilio.

Just to play around, I created the service ‘NBAINFO’ on TextMarks. Text 41411 NBAINFO and then the three letter code for you favorite NBA team (e.g. ‘NBAINFO BOS’ for Boston Celtics, ‘NBAINFO MIA’ for Miami Heat…) and you’ll receive back information on their 2010 season. Granted this isn’t the most meaningful use of the service, but it with some database magic the could be expanded to create generic SMS-based references for when 3g/WiFi are unavailable/untenable.

I imagine a service used to check and report polling abuses, for instance. With a few simple commands, users could confirm reports and also set flags (whether or not volunteers, oversight on the way, for instance) for their local station. A command could also provide a summary of each station’s status as a whole.