Archive for December, 2008



Twitter Logo

The simplicity of Twitter is part of what inspired the version of Zapatag that’s finally being built, so of course I wanted Zapatag to interact with Twitter in some way. If all goes as planned, you’ll be able to zap a tag via Twitter. Provided you’re following @zapatag on Twitter, and include your own Twitter username in your Zapatag user profile, you’ll be able to submit reports via Twitter (and therefore by SMS as well).

Just post a tweet beginning with “@zapatag” followed by a space, the two-letter state abbreviation, a colon, and the license plate number. Anything that follows the next space is the text of your zap. It sounds a bit more complicated than it is, but the format includes spaces and colons so Zapatag can parse the different parts of your Twitter post. For example, this tweet:

@zapatag HI:ABC123 Illegal left turn on Keeaumoku Street.

Will zap the Hawaii license plate ABC123 with “Illegal left turn on Keeaumoku Street.”

Of course, zapping tags by Twitter will mean you won’t be able to include every detail you can specify at the Zapatag site, such as car or driver descriptions, map points, or emoticons. But sometimes you’ll want to quickly post a Zap via Twitter’s mobile interface or via SMS, and this is a great way to do that. Please don’t zap tags while driving, however. You’re liable to get zapped yourself, or worse!

Eventually, I’d like you to be able to receive tweets posted in your area… but that requires more map and math magic than I’ve got right now!


First Look


I’ve told probably a hundred people about Zapatag since I first started thinking about it three years ago. And when I started getting serious about it at the beginning of the year, I shared the spec and several screenshots with maybe a dozen good friends. But those were Photoshop fantasies (rudimentary though they were). Now that developers have actually been writing code, little bits and pieces of the site actually exist. And earlier this week, I posted the above screencap to Flickr.

Of course, the license plates above look almost exactly like the Photoshop mocks, which in my view is a good thing. While the programmers sorted out how the states and plate numbers would be handled, I created the blank license plate backgrounds. It took considerably longer than I expected, and some state plate designs came out pretty horrid. In a few cases, I just opted for a simple colored field and text. But there are a few plates that came out quite nice, even if I do say so myself. I’ve certainly come to appreciate the different designs and the different icons that represent the 50 states.

Yes, I know, there are special plates. I found some states have maybe 30 or 40 unique designs to commemorate everything from sports teams to social causes. There’s no way in heck I’d be able to design all of those, and at present, I don’t even know how they work. Do they have special numbering sequences? Can there be a “standard” plate and a “special” plate with the same characters? These are all things I think I’ll have to learn the hard way as real data starts to come in.

Today I finished the last state: Wyoming. And that, essentially, will be the extent of my real contributions to the development of Zapatag. I’m not much of a designer, but I’m even less of a developer. From this point forward, all I can do is look at the things the developers create, try to break them, and ultimately refine them.

December 2008
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