[iRail] Meeting with NMBS "Adviseur Communicatie, Online and Mobile Applications"

Pieter Colpaert pieter.colpaert at gmail.com
Mon Aug 9 14:19:29 UTC 2010

Hi Christophe!

Thanks for bringing this to our attention and thanks for willing to
represent us.

I will not be able to attend due to examinations, but if I would be
there this is what I would have liked to say:

As Europeans we strongly believe in open data. The NMBS has no right to
keep the train schedules for themselves and they can't prohibit us to
use them. The only way to provide a better service to customers is
letting those people do with this information what they dream of. The
most intriguing aspect of open data is that you cannot ever imagine what
people are going to do with it, in a good way.

The goal of our project, project.irail.be, is that the NMBS should
implement our API, so we don't have to scrape any longer. The API will
become adopted internationally and app developers will be able to write
international applications, or will even be able to join these APIs in 1
big international service. 

This (business/software) model is not new. It's called
dependency-inversion. Instead of creating 1 big centralised service
which knows all schedules, we are going to ask each public
transportation company to implement the same interface. As they will all
speak the same language, the only thing a client programmer needs to do
is to scroll through all different companies and asking them the same

So this talk should not become a discussion whether or not and how we
use the data, because we're going to use it anyway, but it should become
a discussion on whether the NMBS is willing to ease our project's goal
and implement our API specification themselves in, for instance

The API specification is not ready yet and they should be invited to
help formulating the specification. A good idea is to set a date for a
meet-up with all interested parties to discuss how this API should look
like: what information it should contain, how it is built, in what
formats it should exist, etc...

This is an opportunity for us to speak, not to listen. The NMBS is not
the most important aspect of our project, because if they do not agree,
we can still legally scrape the right information from their pages (if
they think this is not true, I'm thrilled to take this in court). The
only thing that I want to know: are they willing to cooperate? We will
create the API wrappers, we will create API clients and we will ask
other countries and companies to join our cause.

Yours sincerely,
Pieter Colpaert 

On Mon, 2010-08-09 at 15:47 +0200, Christophe Versieux wrote:
> Hello all.
> Just a few days before I discovered the iRail API and had the first 
> contact with all you, I had an answer from the NMBS/SNCB for a meeting 
> request.
> The purpose of this meeting was only the Android application and nothing 
> else, because I didn't know you, yet.
> Now that we are working together and we have great plans, I would like 
> to know if you think that's a good idea to present them our 
> international project. Of course, they should certainly know about all 
> this because Yeri's Blog seem to get a visitor increasing number due to 
> the media, and they are following our projects.
> I don't know if I can ask them to come with a few extra people during 
> the meeting, but if you are intersted or want to write them some 
> letters, or some information, I will listen to you and try to bring our 
> project in a "diplomatic" way.
> What do you think I should told them?
> Do you have any idea?
> Thank a lot
> Christophe
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