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App turns bus stops into social networks

STEPHANIE IP, 24 HOURS
Tylor Sherman (right) and Todd Sieling developed an app called Thisisourstop.com which they say will open up social networks for commuters. (RICHARD LAM PHOTO)

Tylor Sherman (right) and Todd Sieling developed an app called Thisisourstop.com which they say will open up social networks for commuters. (RICHARD LAM PHOTO)

For anyone who has ever wanted to strike up a conversation with strangers at the bus stop, an online app created by two local developers may be just the thing.

This Is Our Stop, the brainchild of Tylor Sherman and Todd Sieling, is a mobile web app that anchors message boards around Vancouver transit stops.

Accessible via any smartphone browser, the app lets riders look up boards using TransLink's five-digit station codes and post short messages relating to that stop's location. The posts can range from recommendations of nearby points of interests, rants and raves about the condition of the stop, or even just quirky transit and weather observations.

"We don't think that just because something can be digital that it has to be lifted out of that place and time," Sieling explained of the app and how it differs from other networks like Twitter or Facebook.

"It's the idea that we can keep things tied very closely to a specific physical location rather than trying to disembed ideas and conversations."

The pair also opted to keep the app simple but useful. Users aren't required to create an account and can post anonymously or with a nickname. Each stop's entry incorporates Google maps and TransLink data, listing bus routes and arrival times.

While the app can operate as a transit customer feedback platform, Sherman also compared it to urban graffiti or sticker culture.

"You can post things and see what comes up and we're doing that in the digital space," he said.

On the message board for a B-Line stop at Granville and Broadway, a rider posted, "The people on this bus better watch out, I just got outta Memphis Blues and that place gives me the poops!" referencing a nearby restaurant.

Moving forward, however, Sherman and Sieling will step back and allow the app to take on a life of its own. The pair is open to the idea of collaborating with TransLink, and hope other developers will adopt the open-source app for their own cities.

"We don't want to dictate the message that gets put out there. We want to see how people are using it and get real feedback," Sherman said.

To try the app, visit http://thisisourstop.com on your smartphone.