Friday, June 01, 2012

Beta SF Neighborhoods

Often I've found myself somewhere familiar in San Francisco, thinking "is this technically Mission or Noe or Castro?" — or somewhere completely unfamiliar, thinking "I wonder what neighborhood this is".

So I made this thing. It's an iPhone app which tells you where in San Francisco you are. This is me, at home:


It doesn't show you a map, or tell you the history of the neighborhood, or link to Wikipedia, or provide droll stereotypes or give you vital stats like population or elevation or weather. It just tells you what neighborhood you're currently in—and how far you are from the closest adjacent neighborhood. That's it.

I say "iPhone app" and I mean that in the same sense that Steve Jobs did in 2007 when he announced that the iPhone would support third-party apps. It's a web page.

Add it as a bookmark to the home screen, though, and it's pretty app-like. It works like this

It's barely even a beta; more of a steel thread. But hey, have at it: visit on your iPhone, and add a bookmark to your home screen.

Some limitations, even within the admittedly narrow feature scope:

  • you pretty much have to be in San Francisco for it to be of any use;
  • if you're not in San Francisco then not only will it be no use but the distance calculation (which depends on a pretty rough and ready approximation from spherical to planar geometry) will become less accurate the further you are away; and
  • error cases aren't handled terribly gracefully.

That said, I use it myself all the time and find it useful. Next steps are probably factoring the code into something sane and putting it on Github. Don't hold your breath.


Mark Johnson said...

Interesting app. But, do you worry that you have too positivist a notion of neighborhood? That is, at the boundaries of neighborhoods, reasonable people can disagree about what 'hood they are in. One might use an official guide to tell them who is "right", but if the official guide says that you are in the Castro, but most people say you are in Noe Valley, who is right? Cf., Wittgenstein and language games. Btw, I found this article on Zite :)

Isaac Hepworth said...

It's a valid point. Two lines I didn't copy forward from my previous post are "Obviously the notion of neighborhood borders as zero-width lines is a fiction. Nonetheless it's a fiction with significant appeal to someone with a mathematical background and an Aspergic heritage" :-)

In terms of what most people say, I found this project interesting: Particularly with apartment listings you're going to find that the "good" neighborhoods get bigger and bigger, and the "bad" neighborhoods get smaller and smaller... or get different names.

Arthur Smith said...

I bet they've also made a copy of these to cover property in east london.

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