Friday, 14 August 2009

An ‘earlier problems’ segue reminds us that legendarily tardy and sclerotic RailCorp is yet to bring out an iPhone app for train timetables, despite the premier, Nathan Rees, asking the government body to cooperate with developers back in March. March, guys. That’s five months ago.

The story this time was about an iPhone app - FoodWatch NSW - that will have restaurateurs shaking in their boots. Developers mogeneration have taken data about food standards breaches that is already publicly available on the NSW Food Authority website and included it in an interactive iPhone map. The screen grab on the news website shows a succession of red bulbs, each marking out a restaurant that failed a NSW Food Authority inspection.

I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? You’re in the car and you decide to eat out. “But where can we eat?” is the question-du-jour. IPone users can now check to see if the place they are sussing out the car window is non-compliant.

Having this information on a website is simply not adequate. I can almost overhear restaurant owners cursing mogeneration for their initiative.

Whereas before you needed access to a computer to see non-compliance details, now you can get them on your iPhone. It’s almost sure that the NSW Food Authority’s website is NOT optimized for mobile phones.

Take that, you dirty restaurant owner! The Sydney Morning Herald website captioned the story ‘Filthy Feed Map App’. What a laugh!

In a massive understatement, mogeneration CEO Keith Ahern thinks “a lot of restaurants aren't happy about it”. Well … Let’s see … Hmmmm. Yup.

A NSW Food Authority spokesperson sidestepped the dilemma the organization now faces given the large number of rancorous restaurant owners.

A NSW Food Authority spokesman said it did not have a particular view of such applications, but would encourage the public to use the information wisely.

"We don't endorse any of those products," he said. "We just provide the information for anyone to use. We just encourage people to be cautious because the information is frequently changed. They should check back to the original source before they make a decision.

"People can do what they do with public information."

Now people can actually use the information in a meaningful context, the NSW Food Authority is not about to start crowing, are they? I mean, it’s not politic, is it? This is classic bureaucrat-speak for “look, we wouldn’t have made it easily available ourselves but we’ve looked into it and since the information is already in the public sphere there’s not much we can legally do to stop this thing. Sorry. We tried to stop it but it‘s out of our hands.”

Which will hardly pacify the many restaurateurs whose premises are logged on the map.

As for RailCorp allowing developers to bring out an iPhone timetable, attached to the end of the story, it might be wiser to keep a sharp look-out for flying pigs than expect a fast turnaround within the behemoth any time soon.

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