Students to release updated Joey-tracker app

Two students will this Wednesday unveil PartyBus, an updated Joey-tracker application for smartphones, with the release of the new iOS 7 Apple operating system.

Creators Mario Hall and Brendan Conron, both juniors, explained that users will see an updated form of the current PartyBus app with a different tracking strategy.

“We’re in the process of redesigning [the app] for iOS 7, which is the new version of the software, to make it better and easier to use,” Hall said.

The first version of PartyBus, Hall and Conron said, used “crowdsourcing” to track the location of the Joey. Students were able to send in feedback on the Joey’s whereabouts by selecting its position from a list of stops or by enabling the phone’s location-tracking function once on the bus. From these “tags,” other students could follow the Joey’s progress on a map.

Instead of relying on student “tags,” the new version of the app estimates the number of minutes until the Joey’s arrival at three stops based on the schedule posted online, Hall said. “Everything’s hard-coded without Wifi, without data, and you just go on your phone and you can see all the times,” Conron said.

Hall explained that the changes to the app were necessary since PartyBus remains fairly unknown on campus.

“We’re realizing that people really aren’t going to send in stuff,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out a way to design around that so that the app isn’t useless without it. And that’s what we’re stressing with this whole schedule-view thing.”

Eventually, Conron said, the team hopes to reintroduce the crowd-sourcing feature and make the scheduled times a fallback time estimate for when no “tags” have been recently added by students.

“We just want an app that works right now,” he said. “Once that’s solid and works, we’ll put back user activity,” he said.

Hall said he came up with the idea for PartyBus while walking back to his dorm last winter. After wondering aloud where the Joey was, his friend said he knew where it was because another friend had just texted him from inside the bus.

“That made me think, ‘Oh, we could crowdsource the Joey,’” he said.

When the app came out last semester, Hall and Conron focused more on working out technical bugs than promoting it. This time, Hall said, they plan to market the app with pamphlets in the dining halls and posters around Joey stops.

“It’s not going to work if people aren’t using it, so there’s going to be a lot more push once we get it working,” Hall said.

According to Conron, the original app debuted in February of last year after he and Hall worked on it for two months. A few technical issues discovered in the first few weeks of the app’s existence, however, prevented it from becoming fully functional until the last month and a half of school, Conron said.

“The biggest bug was that if you didn’t enable your location and used the app, it would tag you at [coordinates] (0,0), which is somewhere off the coast of Africa,” Conron said. “So the Joey was in Africa for a while.”

Both the first version of PartyBus and the new edition are free for students to download.

“Our idea was it should be a wake-up call to Tufts if two students in their spare time can make a better functioning system than an entire school with literally millions of dollars in endowment,” Hall said.

By charging people to download PartyBus, Hall said, the team would run the risk of fragmenting their user base, resulting in fewer people using the “tag” system.

As of press time, more than 200 people have downloaded the old app, Hall said. He expressed satisfaction with this number given the lack of advertising.

“We’re happy it’s sort of spreading by word of mouth,” he said.

Hall and Conron encouraged people to download the new app in order to make Joey-tracking more accurate in the future, when the crowdsourcing features are reestablished.

“If people help, then it will be accurate, so it’s really up to students,” Hall said.