Simple UK Train Times App – Still Dead and I’m Not Supposed to Talk About It

On Sunday I wrote this post about how National Rail ordered me to shutdown my free train times application and intend to charge users of their UK “Live Departure Boards” data feed.  Responses from readers were positive and I’ve been put in touch with a few groups who’re equally appalled.  In the last couple of days I’ve been chasing up the issue.

Here are some examples of the way other railways deal with openness:

Consensus is that train times are best disseminated as widely and openly as possible.  The more chance us folks have of finding a train the likelier we are to ride on it.  Keeping the details of train times a secret or charging people for non-profitmaking uses is perverse and a retrograde step from when they were supplied freely to the public through an API.

1) The Chief Executive

Letter published in Wired Magazine

One helpful commenter alerted me to a letter from National Rail Enquiries’ chief Executive published in this month’s Wired magazine.  It was a response to an editorial piece in September where Wired were very critical of National Rail’s attitude to their data feeds.

With Wired’s permission I’m reproducing it here.  Since it’s been published in a national magazine I don’t believe it counts as confidential, but if National Rail Enquiries decide it is (more on that later) I’m sure Wired will host their own copy.

In it Chris sings the praises of his organisation’s “open” data policies saying they’ve opened up data to “a range of” organisations, “often free of charge”.

I am not one of these lucky organisations, so my simple train times application is still broken.

His letter does not say how many have been ordered to quit using the data feeds in the last few days – I’d be fascinated to see a figure.  I bet it’s larger than the number of licenses they’ve granted. Were the Association of Train Operating Companies a publicly owned body I could submit a Freedom of Information request and get a precise figure, but sadly they are not.  They seem to feel they’re accountable to nobody but the reality is that they are regulated by the Office of Rail Regulation.

The Office of Rail Regulation investigated ATOC’s monopoly of the data a year ago and concluded there was the potential to stifle innovation around it.  From their report:

“ATOC has total control over the supply of RTTI [real-time travel information] and as a result, to a very great extent, over what the future market will look like in terms of what products and services consumers will ultimately enjoy. This in turn means that ATOC has a special responsibility to avoid allowing its market power to distort the market it supplies so that consumers’ interests are not prejudiced”

Chris Scoggins writes a blog of his own so on Sunday evening I posted a comment on its most recent entry to try and bring the problem to his attention…

Hi Chris,

I’d like to bring the problems with the Live Departure Boards API to your attention. I’ve explained the saga on my blog at http://mocko.org.uk/b/2010/10/29/national-rail-have-killed-my-train-times-app/.

Essentially – despite being told in no uncertain terms last year (in writing, pdf linked from the blog post) that the LDB feed was for noncommercial use only I’ve been told by Derek Parlour that I must shut down my public app, likely pay for a license and that “licenses have always been required”. How can this possibly square with National Rail Enquiries’ refusal to license the feed for commercial purposes a year ago?

Derek’s response goes completely against your letter on National Rail’s commitment to open data feeds published in this month’s Wired magazine. I’d really appreciate it if you’d look into the matter.

Best,
Alex.

Openness?  What openness.

This morning Chris replied via email since my message was off-topic for the blog.  I’m grateful to him for doing so; no doubt he’s busy and it’s encouraging that a chief executive would take the time to engage with a random schmuck like me.

I would like to print Chris’s reply here but sadly I cannot.  In it Chris admonished me for publicising Derek’s email.  He claims emails sent by National Rail Enquiries are confidential, although I’m hard-pushed to find any confidential information in the three lines of Derek’s text I used in my last post.  I’ve asked some legal experts and I’m told that since there’s nothing particularly confidential about what Derek told me it shouldn’t be a worry – it was already public knowledge that ATOC were requiring licenses of the API’s users (it’s on their website) and easy to infer a cost was likely.

They did have (paraphrased) boilerplate text at the bottom saying “this is confidential and meant for the addressee only; unless you’re the recipient you can’t disclose it” but since I was the recipient I inferred this as meaning I was allowed to use the contents.  Sadly Chris tells me in no uncertain terms that I am not permitted to disclose the contents of any emails from National Rail Enquiries without their written permission.  The text itself, however, seems to indicate differently.

This really is a funny kind of openness.

It feels like I’m being intimidated out of discussing this any more for fear of legal action.  Am I even allowed to talk about what National Rail have told me or is this some blanket, quasi-legal gagging order?  If I discuss it any further will the police be sent to kick down my door?

Openness.

This afternoon I asked Chris:

“Could you clarify that a bit more? Am I banned from directly quoting emails with National Rail Enquiries or from publicly discussing their contents at all?”

…but I haven’t had an answer yet.

Openness.  Right.

2) Licensing the Data

I had a few more communications with Derek about the history of the feed’s licensing.  I don’t think they contain any trade secrets or confidential information but out of courtesy to Chris’s request I won’t share them.  Suffice to say we rather disagree on what “open” means.

The API

The National Rail Enquiries line appears to be that while the data was freely supplied to the public from their API any semblance of openness was an accident.  Anybody who used it without an explicit license was breaking the terms & conditions, however obscure or ill-enforced they were.  I cannot rightly conceive how one would create a high-traffic public data API then accidentally leave it online for years with comprehensive documentation and written letters from prospective users to remind you it’s there, but there we go.

In further emails I’ve re-raised the question about whether they really mean I have to shut down an application that was providing a useful public service:

“Unfortunately it seems you’re still evading my question about shutting down the app.  For the third time – even though my application was providing a useful service which helped rail users and must have caused negligible load on your infrastructure, do you still insist that I shut it down right now or can I keep it open while we discuss licensing options?”

I’ve asked that three times now and each time it’s been sidestepped.  [Is it confidential that someone hasn’t answered a question?]

License Terms

Even if I wanted to talk about these I couldn’t – none have so far been offered.  I’ve asked twice but National Rail Enquiries have gone very quiet on the subject.

3) Summing Up

I don’t think my application’s going to be back anytime soon.  While nobody has said how much a license would cost I know it’ll probably be paid-for and given my app was a free service I won’t be able to afford one.

Are the data feed or the organisation providing it in any way open?  Make up your own mind on that.  Is innovation being stifled?  Certainly.

I don’t expect to hear more from National Rail Enquiries on the subject.  While they’re paying lip service to “open” data the reality is very, very different.

[Edit: I’ve setup a page where you be listed if you’ve applied for a license.  This should help us keep tabs on how many are actually granted.  The post about it is here.]

66 thoughts on “Simple UK Train Times App – Still Dead and I’m Not Supposed to Talk About It

  1. Hey Alex,

    As I’m sure you’re aware, the National Rail iPhone application uses a different API to the one you have linked in your post. So even if that data is open, they are obviously keeping back data in the iPhone application which is making it a rather popular application. It’s a shame really.

    I can only suggest opening up the application and host it up on github to allow people to host the application themselves/put on the cloud.

    ChrisNTR

  2. Was researching making an train time app for the new Windows Phone 7.

    But guessing the first app is the official one?

    Its created by “avanade” and according to their site:

    “The National Rail application is an example of how Avanade is delivering mobile solutions for enterprise customers so they can improve the lives of their customers. Avanade partnered with National Rail on this solution to expand and improve how passengers can stay up to date on their rail schedules.”

    http://www.avanade.com/en-uk/case-studies/Pages/National-Rail.aspx

    The app if £5. So I pretty much gave up at this point and reading your post (found via twitter).

    Guess they want a monopoly then?

  3. I recently looked at Android apps for train times and noticed that there were no free options and wondered why, since *obviously* ATOC would want to make it as easy as possible for people to find the times. Wrong!

    The options are Time Times UK by Croworc at £4.99 or Rail Planner Live by Thales (for ATOC it seems) at £3.49 discounted from £4.99. Interestingly Croworc’s website quotes “Such technology incurs support costs by ATOC, and extra development by us (Croworc), so accordingly we have had to increase the price of the app to £4.99”.

    I imagine they have set up commerical agreements for access and those companies have complained about the API being open and they are having to do something about it (althought I doubt it stops them licensing it for free). I can understand that they would have concerns about resource usage (eg. if a million people installed an app that updates ten times an hour), but API keys and monitoring could keep track of this.

    Anyway, the response from Mr. Scoggins was even more amazing, talk about lack of PR skills. The Register would probably be interested too.

    1. Hi,

      I use the national rail enquiries Android app. It’s free, it works (it could be better but it functions fine for me) and is accurate.

      all the best
      Jon

  4. Hi Alex,

    We’re dealing with the exact same problem in Belgium. Happily for us however, after we’ve put the letter online, some important people started to support us and at this moment we got more contributers than ever (and still online). We spoke with their PR people and they told us that we can do whatever we were doing but that we should keep it quiet. Our attorney however pointed out that they cannot legally “defend” this data, because they have no copyright to it according to the European guidelines.

    Since this happened we’ve changed our focus: we are now focusing on delivering a webservice/API. This API needs optimisation however for different countries. Afterwards any application can make use of this webservice to use the train schedules in innovative ways. If you want to work together on this one, please feel free to mail me. We have already quite some code for Belgium and are extending to Germany, the Netherlands and France soon. (example of UK API: http://dev.api.irail.nl/connections/?to=Canterbury&from=London )

    Pieter

    1. Wow, good work! Things have come along way since I was writing scrapers for our public transport sites all those years ago – there is a healthy awareness of the need for publically accessible data and good APIs. Keep it up :)

  5. It seems like the thing here is that the response to the original registered letter (looking at Gareth’s comment in particular), was actually a complete and utter lie. Presumably they had an exclusive commercial agreement for this, or other such craziness, but didn’t want to actually disclose the fact. Instead they said “non-commercial only”. If the mail contained a disclaimer – while I thought they’d been pretty much completely discredited (IANAL, as you well know) – reprinting it could be an issue. Either way, the only way is to put pressure on the rail regulator and using the press (wired / Grauniad etc) to actually put pressure on ATOC and NRE to bring them into line with what’s acceptable behaviour with respect to data in 2010.

  6. Definately submit this to Private Eye; they’ve been railing (ha) against national rail for months now, and this gives them more fodder to throw at them.

  7. I swear, it’s like all the people at National Rail have severe head injuries.
    You have to wonder what, exactly, are they afraid of?? Are they worried that people will be able to plan their train rides more easily or something? Cuz’ we sure wouldn’t want that.

    The National Rail motto: “Efficiency Is For Suckers

  8. For those that object to paying for train times can I recommend the CrossCountry Trains app on iPhone and the Railnavigator app on android.

    Railnavigator is branded Deutsch Bahn, but is made by the same company as the CrossCountry Trains app and have access to train times throughout Europe.

    No widgets though.

  9. Just to avoid further confusion – Network Rail and National Rail are not one and the same.

    Alex’s issues are clearly with National Rail in this instance and whilst Network Rail may be in a position to help, I don’t they are implicated directly (yet).

  10. In terms of the iPhone App, there used to be a free one when National Rail decided to block access to the developer of the original app, and it was delisted from the App Store shortly after. I can’t remember it but I remember it was the only decent way of getting national rail timings at that time.

    Since then, I just stopped using them. Took bus and coach everywhere instead.

  11. Hey Alex,

    There are more rail companies that are currently increasing restrictions for the use of their timetable information. I know of the Belgian rail company NMBS that recently published new rules for linking to their website (which contains train departure information):

    – No deep linking. Don’t even ask because you’re not allowed to.
    – No linking to their frontpage without their explicit written permission (so I won’t link to them here).

    Hope they see the light and you can put your app back online.

    Cheers, Bart

  12. IANAL, but I don’t believe these is any provision for a company to send you a communication and then place restrictions upon its use. You didn’t agree to keep anything confidential before they sent it, so there is no obligation on you to do so.

    1. @David Child,

      Bingo. I believe it’s been sucsessfully argued that the whole “if you are not the intended ” boilerplate on the bottom of e-mails isn’t actually legally enforcable. Same as “the views expressed by this person are those of the individual and not the company” well if it comes from an internal address and was sent by an employee…

      So feel free to stick those letters up and we’ll all have a giggle.

  13. I’ve submitted this to Private eye also in the hope that they will investigate. This may be a specific story, but there are often wider implications, especially when it comes to the dissemination of public data.

  14. Just wanted to add that the admonishing and the confidentiality statement is essentially a legal ruse. These issues have been taken up in a number of instance before, and in systems stemming from English Common Law, the dissertations of confidentiality basically don’t hold water. The law only allows for this if you see the notice before you can read the email. This is clearly not the case when the warning comes in the footer of an email; moreover the way email is designed and displayed makes it particularly difficult enforce this facet of the law.

  15. Interesting article this – similarly doubting of their insistence that communications cannot be published, also IANAL though.

  16. I think in the UK, public sector/public service companies such as National Rail are so unattractive to work for at a management / communications level in comparison to private sector jobs that much of what you have witnessed can be put down to this

    I believe it’s simply that such organisations naturally collect those with little ambition and skills, and especially people with a chip on their shoulder, who need to prove their worth by means of power-tripping or making change purely for the sake of feeling like they have an impact in their job.

    It’s the same reason we see idiotic discussions about political correctness of Christmas displays offending ethnic groups at this time of year (that other countries don’t), the same reason we see such ridiculous health and safety laws, and the same reason we see resistance to community involvement in public sector operations (that would be usually be encouraged in countries such as Canada).

    It doesn’t surprise me at all to see the poster aimed at developers from San Francisco, as things aren’t as bad elsewhere. The insular power-trippers that make up the majority of employees in the offices of organisations like National Rail contribute to making this country such a depressing place to live. I don’t know if you can blame the people, tradition, the organisations or a vicious circle. But it makes this country suck.

    1. A number of good points but I don’t think it’s anything to do with public vs private sector. National Rail are actually a private-sector organisation (ATOC, a committee of the privately-owned rail operators, typically large PLCs like Stagecoach and FirstGroup). However the whole restriction on the API does seem rather typical of what I would call a “corporatist” approach, IMX worse in the private than in the public sector. The whole idea of openness seems to be foreign to a lot of them. I myself develop a web app which would benefit greatly from open rail timetable data. True, server load issues could be a problem but as someone else said using an API key should fix this.

  17. I really feel for you – I too am a 30-something Londoner who uses APIs and have run into this kind of trouble as well (I’m an Android developer). Maybe we should form a club or something!? :)

    Well done for publishing this and please don’t give up.

  18. @Milosevic National Rail is a private sector organisation. In this case they are looking to exploit their monopoly position for profit (why share for free when a commercial developer would pay?) Public-sector organisations are increasingly sharing data (e.g. Ordnance Survey CC licensing most of their data). The Christmas stories are largely made up to increase newspaper readership. Health and safety is just as bad in the private sector and is driven by lawsuits. Which are pushed by private sector lawyers looking to make money off settlements. My hair is a bird, your argument is invalid. Lay off the Daily Mail and get back in touch with reality please.

  19. Somebody has called National Rail out about this on their Facebook page, this is the response:
    National Rail Enquiries:- Daniel, NRE licences its data to a number of developers in line with our Code of Practice (which is published here: http://www.atoc.org/about-atoc/national-rail-enquiries/code-of-practice). This code of practice was agreed in conjunction with the Office for Rail Regulation last year.
    about an hour ago

    Poor show from Network Rail. They’ve behaved terribly over this whole thing, starting with killing off a free iPhone app in order to be able to peddle their own hugely over priced app, and moving on to this debacle. A very counter productive attitude from them. I think I’ll just take the car next time ;)

    1. @Simon: What makes you think that the Code of Practice was put together only a few hours ago?
      The PDF document properties say it was created 23-Apr-2010 and the http server headers suggest the same:
      lwp-request -e -m HEAD http://www.atoc.org/clientfiles/File/NRE/NRE_COP.pdf
      200 OK
      Connection: close
      Date: Wed, 03 Nov 2010 23:26:24 GMT
      ..
      Content-Length: 92364
      Content-Type: application/pdf
      Last-Modified: Fri, 23 Apr 2010 15:44:35 GMT
      ..

      I’m disappointed at the inconsistency of Network Rail/National Rail/whoever-they-want-to-call-themselves on this matter.

      Sure they have to pay for the hardware, connectivity, electricity and development costs to create and maintain the timetable API so they should be able to charge for it if they want to. But they should be consistent in their responses to enquiries about it. Having it free for some and not others reeks somewhat. If licences are required they should be helpful and point people to the appropriate information so they can apply for (and obtain) licences, and the schedule of licence fees should be published (not negotiated on a case-by-case basis as the CoP suggests).

  20. FYI, they have no legal right to stop you from publishing anything they have sent you, unless in advance you signed some contract saying you would not talk about it (eg non-disclosure agreement). But you did not. So their threats are all just trying to scare you, to prevent them from getting even more bad press.

  21. I don’t know how it works in the UK, but in NZ this sort of thing would probably be worth an email/letter to the local MP, preferably one whose ideology matches. If nothing else CEOs of (semi) regulated organizations take MPs fairly seriously.

  22. Traintimes.org.uk is still running this evening; if you’ve not already you should drop them a lien and see what API their free app is using…

    1. From the traintimes.org.uk website:

      “This is an accessible version of the National Rail Enquiries train timetable site, giving access to the information on that site no matter what browser you are using, with no requirement for cookies or JavaScript. It works by screenscraping the information on the official site, and takes the opportunity to remove the “Please Wait” pages, move things around, and improve things a bit. Many thanks to National Rail Enquiries for allowing this site to persist.”

  23. From my experience, the British Rail Network is one of the worst (if not the worst in terms o value for money) in entire europe.
    Here are the typical markers for british rail services:
    – Poor service (late, many cancelations)
    – Rude personal (I even had one guy threatening to arrest me for simply asking for his name/ID number, so I could complain about him)
    – Slow (doing 300miles in 5h, I might as well go by car
    – Dirty (the filth and feacies, I have experienced on trains in the UK, I have seen nowhere else, not even in the poorest third world countries travelling economy.
    – Expensive (In Germany, I can travel with a standard 1st class ticket from Frankfurt (Main station) to Hamburg (Main Station) for approx. €110,– in the ICE train in about 3,5h (it is almost 400miles). Apart from the fact, that there is no train service as fast as that, it is close to impossible to get a standard priced ticket for standard class for that price.
    – Ancient trains ( the train companies are telling us, that they are concenred about our safety and that is why the approval of the new coaches/trains is taking several years. what a load of hoggwash: how come many of the other european operators can do it, and yet they have a significantly better history than the trains here in the UK)

    Just my 5 pence

    ZimboKraut

    1. Thanks for that insightful addition to the conversation.

      – I regularly travel about 200 miles in just under 2 hours, with no delays, in very comfortable trains. – I’ve travelled by train in other European countries and experienced terrible delays; Staff weren’t rude… because they weren’t there.
      – And as for ancient trains… some are, some aren’t. IMHO, the most comfortable trains running in the UK today are operated by East Coast, and they are really old.
      – You have a point about the price, and the nonsense peddled by many of the operating companies

  24. Follow the money. This smells of under-the-table arrangements. Dare I suggest kickbacks or other quid-pro-quo to those who decide who gets licenses and who does not?

  25. Sounds like you need to include the following signature at the bottom of all your emails, then you can quote from their emails at will:

    READ CAREFULLY. By reading this email, you agree, on behalf of your
    employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from
    any and all NON-NEGOTIATED agreements, licenses, terms-of-service,
    shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure,
    non-compete and acceptable use policies (“BOGUS AGREEMENTS”) that I
    have entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents
    and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and
    privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to
    release me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer.

  26. For what it’s worth, there is no way I would pay for that iphone app National Rail have up.
    What next for them? Perhaps ‘what the butler saw’ style machines at railway stations to make passengers pay to find out what platform & time their trains leave from?

    Bloody imbeciles.

  27. Alex

    at Open Rights Group we are starting to campaign on Open Data as a basic element of a digital rights framework. There is now growing consensus that public institutions must make their data available for free and with a license that allows reuse. Although the flow of data is still slow, the intention is there and there are mechanisms to challenge close doors.

    The problem we face now is that a lot of the data is now generated and held by private organisations carrying out a public service, in many cases with infrastructure and legal privilege inherited from previous public bodies. As you said, you cannot use the Freedom of Information Act, and also they are exempt of the Public Sector Information Re-use regulations 2005, which ban exclusivity agreements of the type mentioned in this blog.

    With the law looking elsewhere, this leaves pure social pressure as our main tool to change this situation. We would be very happy to help out in this case by putting our campaigning and media resources to work on this.

    One place to gather support would be the Open Government Data Camp 2010, where we will be discussing Open Data advocacy. This could be use as a case study and we would get lots of good advice from the experts from all over the world. The camp takes place in 2 weeks, 18-19th November in London, and places are running out.
    http://opengovernmentdata.org/camp2010/

    If you are in London we could have a coffee and talk about possibilities. Also everyone commenting here would be welcome. Now is the right time to do it, as there are lots of initiatives all around the world to put National Rail Enquiries to shame.

    Also, if rail tickets are going to go up by some ridiculous amounts after the cuts, passengers will be more receptive to further attempts by NR to scrap the bottom of their wallets by charging them for information.

  28. It’s private data being generated by a private system that costs millions to maintain. What makes you think you have any right to use that data in anyway at all? Go through the correct channels or don’t complain at all. And do your research.

    1. Private data, private systems, fine. But it would be appreciated if they could keep their story straight from one month to the next about whether or not non-commercial use requires a license (i.e. they heavily implied that it did not). And also, they shouldn’t talk about ‘openness’ of information if it’s mere lip service which they are not going to follow up on.

    2. The data management is a sunken cost and the system has already been created and available for a long time. The costs are therefore those of maintaining the feed and the system resources. However, the users of the feed would ALREADY be obtaining the information elsewhere, either from the National Rail website or by taking pocket timetables from a station, so it is just shifting the cost around.

      Also it appears that the blog owner and others have enquired about obtaining a licence, however National Rail don’t seem to be interested in licensing free services, presumably they can’t think of a way to charge because it would cause problems with justifying the charge to the people who pay on a per-application-sold basis.

      Finally, the public subsidises the rail network by something like £6bn a year (£100 per every man, woman and child), so it’s not like demanding data from any other company.

  29. Interesting that you have the similar problems. I wrote a slightly more complicated app for the Indian railways system – http://www.bharatbyrail.com – it finds quickest journeys, using connecting trains if necessary between any two cities, and of course its free and ad-free, but getting hold of the underlying train schedule data as an API is next to impossible. They only offer access to their API to people who can put up Rs, 2,000000 ( US$ 40,000 ) as a non-refundable deposit and have an annual turnover of several crore ( read millions ) Rupees.

    This pretty much cuts out anybody but the big corporations. This would perhaps be fine if they at least offered the type of optimal and comprehensive scheduling that I offer – but they don’t. According to me, over 55% of the routes between the top 200 Indian cities are not covered by their online apps. People have to rely on travel agents to scour through timetables – or use my app.

    Good luck with your endeavors.

  30. Sorry to hear this. I wrote a python implementation for national rail a while ago and was using it personally since it was way faster than their webpage. You can find it here – https://github.com/prabhu/pynationalrail

    It will be interesting to find out more details about their token thingy. I will take a look this weekend.

  31. Hi I’m new to Andoid and was looking for a Rail Times app when I came accross these posts
    From the above – I have now installed the German RailNavigator from Deutsch Bahn following the post from Silid
    – So I’m using a German app to get UK Train Times – Never Mind telling Private Eye – This is one for the Daily Mail !!

  32. I stumbled across this blog while googling that new paragraph on the web services page. I was considering writing a (completely free) Windows Phone 7 app for live train times, although I’ve been somewhat put off that idea now and I just wanted to add my own words of support.

    It appears that ATOC’s attitude in this whole matter has been rather short-sighted and bordering on childish. They clearly realise they are sitting on some valuable data, but probably don’t have the time, skills or resources to exploit it themselves. Meanwhile they want to ensure that nobody else benefits, even if it is non-commercial enthusiasts. They appear to have somewhat mismanaged their roadmap towards a formally licensed service and their claims around a license always being required are embarrassingly reactionary and quite pathetic.

    It’s a shame that this organisation is expending so much effort on justifying why it shouldn’t share its information when it could be driving the field. A more visionary Chief Executive could have achieved an enviable CV entry such as “pioneered a dynamic and creative public information distribution environment that established ATOC as a leader in public service enablement”.

    Instead it appears he going for the boring and predictable “put a commercial framework around a data source that stifled creativity and probably won’t generate much margin once the overheads of poorly managing license relationships are taken into consideration”.

    I’m actually an active defender of the UK railway system as I believe it often receives undeserved criticism for having to provide an enormously complex service under the constraints of literally hundreds of years of legacy. However in this case we have an organisation that could be focussing its resources on real problems, while allowing a natural mobile app eco-system to develop and flourish.

  33. On a separate note…

    I suspect their complaints about your quoting their emails are a smokescreen to divert discussion from the real topic; however I think their objections have little merit. Email is not a secure communications medium and you hadn’t signed a non-disclosure agreement with them. If you were a news agency then this type of communication would be considered “on the record” and in the modern age of you-tube, blogs and twitter, any individual should be treated as a one-person media outlet.

    Furthermore free speech should give anyone the right to recount a conversation, especially to raise public awareness on a matter of concern. This would presumably represent hearsay, but we’re dealing with personal comments on a blog – not legal testimony. Clearly you have a responsibility to represent the conversation accurately (to avoid libel) and it strikes me that the best way to achieve this is to quote the actual email (which is of course what you did!).

    You have not formally or actively accepted their terms and conditions, which means their stipulations only have the same implicit weight that my own (completely made up) clause that “any email received by my server becomes my own property and I reserve the right to do anything with it”.

    Ultimately the duty of care is for the sender to ensure that their content is appropriate for the public distribution that an email represents. I suggest that the real point here is that ATOC are embarrassed that their public statements contained alleged inconsistencies and contradictions. However I think their reaction to chastise you was inappropriate and they should have focussed their efforts on training their employees in correct information security and public communication policy.

  34. Firstly, brilliant app. I used it constantly and just seemed to gel with the user interface from the outset. I am a user interface specialist and i tend to pick holes in things like this so hats off. Secondly, im expert in this area but have you considered releasing this under some kind of open source license? Allow everyone to compile the app themselves. This shows that you’re not going to be defeated and that your vision of open data lives on, even if nobody compiles it. This will mean that everyone will be able to use the api for non profit and personal use and the project lives on.

    Just a thought.

    Atom

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